Thousands evacuate as floods drown Kherson and adjacent towns in Ukraine.
Thousands of people are fleeing portions of southern Ukraine after a major dam failed, causing massive floods and a humanitarian calamity.
Water continues to flow down the Dnipro River, which separates Russian and Ukrainian territory.
According to officials, 29 towns and villages along the river have been inundated, and approximately 2,000 residences in Kherson’s major city have been submerged.
Ukraine and Russia both accuse the other of destroying the Kakhovka dam.
The BBC has been unable to corroborate either side’s statements.
The dam in Russian-controlled Nova Kakhovka was breached early Tuesday morning, causing widespread evacuations as water levels downstream rapidly climbed.
One woman, who arrived in Kherson on a rescue boat from the Russian-occupied east bank of the river, described how fast the situation deteriorated after learning of the accident early Tuesday.
“We were able to collect our belongings, but the water continued to rise.” I was boiling buckwheat at the time, and my feet were already submerged. “It began to flood very quickly,” Kateryna Krupych, 40, told the BBC.
“It feels like we lived a whole life in just one day.”
Rising water levels are projected to crest in Kherson late Wednesday, but officials are concerned that the massive Kakhovka reservoir may have a disastrous impact on farmland as it empties into the Black Sea.
Oleksandr Prokudin, regional governor of Kherson, stated 1,700 people have been evacuated so far, but Kremlin-installed officials on the other side of the river said 1,200 people have been evacuated.
Officials believe more than 40,000 people must flee, 17,000 in Ukraine-held area west of the Dnipro and 25,000 in Russian-occupied territory east of the Dnipro.
Who stands to gain from the dam’s breach?
What we know about the Nova Kakhovka catastrophe ‘More and more water is flowing every hour,’ said Unicef’s Damian Rance, adding that the organisation has witnessed homes completely ruined while concerns for stranded residents remain.
“Safe water has obviously been impacted in many of these locations because the water supply obviously came from the reservoir there, as have the electricity supplies that have been cut off.”
Earlier on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that hundreds of thousands of people in the Kherson region lack access to safe drinking water.
Both parties blame each other for the dam’s demise. Ukraine claims it was mined by Russian forces and accuses Russia of doing nothing to assist inhabitants in flooded sections of the river’s Russian-occupied east bank.
Russia claims the damage was caused by Ukrainian shelling, and President Vladimir Putin called it “a barbaric act” during a phone chat with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
This is only the latest setback for the city of Kherson. It was taken by Russian soldiers shortly after the war started last year, but Ukraine liberated it in November. Since that time, the city has been shelled.
Viktoriia Yeremenko, 57, told the BBC that her house was demolished in February and she was forced to relocate to her son’s flat, which has since flooded.
“We managed to get out,” she stated. “There was panic, and we had to flee quickly to get the dogs.” My sibling is also partially paralyzed.”
The Kakhovka dam has recently been a symbol of leverage between Kyiv and Moscow.
When Russia originally took Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian authorities shut down the peninsula, cutting it off from a vital water supply.
Then, last year, Ukraine accused invading Russian forces of putting explosives at the dam, which the Kremlin denied.