Zelensky visits flood-ravaged region as 5 killed by the collapse of Kakhovka dam

Zelensky posted videos on Thursday showing him meeting officials in the Kherson region, as well as footage of people being evacuated at a crossing point. (Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the region inundated by the breached Kakhovka dam, as Moscow-installed authorities reported five fatalities.

The dam was breached on Tuesday, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes as water rushed into the Dnipro River and flooded dozens of villages and parts of the regional capital, Kherson, sparking fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

According to a regional governor, Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of causing the fissure, which on Thursday had submerged 600 square kilometers.

Thursday, Zelensky uploaded videos of him meeting with officials in the Kherson region and footage of people being evacuated at a border crossing.

"I am grateful to the rescuers and volunteers! I appreciate everyone who contributed to this effort!" he wrote.

Using boats and amphibious vehicles, rescuers extracted individuals from flooded areas.

One woman, Tetiana Omelchenko, 65, said she had to clamber through a broken window to reach a rescue boat after waiting two days for evacuation from her apartment building.

"In my building, the water has reached the third floor, and there are still people there," she said.

Lora Musiyan, an employee of Kherson's meteorological agency, waded into the water to measure the current level 5.33 meters above the norm.

She said, "This is the equivalent of two stories; you can only survive on the roof."

'Water Falling Slowly'

Musiyan stated that the water level has begun to decline marginally. If this trend persists, it will be positive news for residents."

According to officials, 2,629 homes were flooded in the territory under Ukrainian control.

Some residents pled with rescuers to return to apartments and rescue animals left behind.

"My cat has been without food for three days, and she is dying," said Olena, 59, as she covered her face with her hands. However, her apartment complex is in a region where the current is too powerful for the rescuers' motor boats.

According to Ukrainian authorities, 30 settlements have been inundated, 10 of which are located in Russian-controlled territory on the eastern bank of the Dnieper.

600 square kilometers (230 square miles) of the Kherson region are submerged, the governor of the region, Oleksandr Prokudin, stated on social media, 68 percent of which is under Russian jurisdiction.

"Despite the danger and heavy Russian shelling, evacuation from the flooded area continues," the governor stated.

The administration of Nova Kakhovka, where the dam is located and is supported by Moscow, stated on social media: "Five people have perished as a result of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station accident. 41 individuals are hospitalized.

Zelensky stated only that "people and animals have died" in the tragedy, as Ukraine has not yet provided several fatalities.

According to Mykolaiv's mayor, Oleksandr Sienkevych, water levels have risen by nearly one meter in the city's bordering region.

Ukraine and Russia have reportedly evacuated more than 6,000 persons, with many more fleeing on their own accord.

'Crime of Ecocide'

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, Zelensky criticized the United Nations and Red Cross, expressing "shock" that "they are not there."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that he would preside over a Thursday meeting of an emergency coordination panel regarding the "outrageous destruction" Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to attend.

France has also pledged assistance to Ukraine.

The Kakhovka dam supplied cooling water to Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power facility in Europe under Russian control. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, stated that there was "no short-term risk" to the facility.

The water level in the dam's reservoir has decreased by one meter in the last day due to evaporation.

Ukraine accuses Russia, whose forces control the area surrounding the dam, of blowing up the dam, while Russia accuses Ukraine of firing ordnance at the dam.

Ukrhydroenergo, which administers hydroelectric plants in Ukraine, stated that the dam was likely mined from within.

The Soviet-era dam was "designed and constructed to withstand an external nuclear strike," the document stated.

The emergency services have warned that the displaced land mines pose a civilian hazard.

The government has also warned about the environmental impact, labeling it "ecocide."

Denys Tsutsaiev, a Greenpeace activist in Kyiv, warned that it could take a decade for some species to recover from the catastrophe, and others may not recover.

According to the most recent data, "at least 500 tonnes of oil were released as a result of the dam's collapse," the activist said, posing a threat to marine mammals and birds.

Publish : 2023-06-08 17:10:00

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