Karim Masimov, Kazakhstan's prime minister, travelled to the region in order to personally supervise the relief efforts.

"We need to have understanding for the situation of the victims ... they have suddenly been left without homes, money and documents,'' Masimov said. 

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country's president, has ordered an inquiry and even a criminal probe into the deadly dam bursts.

He told security services to "carry out a thorough investigation and to bring the guilty to justice if the disaster was the result of negligence and the failure to carry out the necessary repair work to maintain the facility".

A state commission looking into the causes of the disaster has until Tuesday to come up with an explanation for what happened, Nazarbayev added.

Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Almaty, said: "I had a conversation with an environmental group recently and they were raising their concerns about the reservoirs in that part of the world.

"Spring floods happen quite often there and some of these dams are quite old ... they [the environmental group] said that this was an accident waiting to happen."