Ukraine evacuates thousands after dam destroyed

Wednesday, Jun 07, 2023

KHERSON, Ukraine: An attack on a major Russian-held dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday unleashed a torrent of water that flooded a small city, two dozen villages and sparked the evacuation of 17,000 people.Moscow and Kyiv traded blame for ripping a gaping hole in the Kakhovka dam in what Kyiv said was an attempt by Russia to hamper Ukraine´s long-awaited offensive. People in the city of Kherson, the largest population centre nearby, headed for higher ground as water, which had been held back by the dam and a hydroelectric plant, rose in the Dnipro River. “There is shooting, now there is flooding,” said Lyudmyla, who had loaded a washing machine onto a cart that was attached to an old Soviet car.

“Everything is going to die here,” added Sergiy as water from the dam poured downstream into Kherson. Ukrainian authorities said 17,000 people were being evacuated and a total of 24 villages had been flooded. “Over 40,000 people are in danger of being flooded,” Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said, adding that 25,000 more people should be evacuated on the Russian-occupied side of the Dnipro River.

Vladimir Leontyev, the Moscow-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka where the dam is located, said the city was underwater and 900 people had been evacuated. He said 53 evacuation buses were being sent by the authorities to take people from Nova Kakhovka and two other settlements nearby to safety. “We are organising temporary accommodation centres with hot meals,” he said. The Kakhovka dam and its power plant were seized by Russia in the first hours of the war.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of blowing up the dam, urging the world to “react.” He said Russia had carried out “an internal explosion of the structures” of the plant at 2:50 am local time (2350 GMT). “This crime carries enormous threats and will have dire consequences for people´s lives and the environment,” Zelensky told a Vatican peace envoy, Italian cardinal Matteo Zuppi, in Kyiv, the presidency said.

Kyiv also called for a meeting of the UN Security Council and warned of a potential “ecocide” after 150 tonnes of engine oil spilled into the river as a result of the attack. Western powers also blamed Russia for the damage to the Kakhovka dam, with EU chief Charles Michel calling it a “war crime.”