Evacuations and rescue operations in southern Ukraine continued on Wednesday after the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam sent a deluge of water through dozens of towns along the southern frontline of the war zone.
Ukrainian officials said about 42,000 people on both sides of the Dnipro River, which cuts through government-controlled and Russian-occupied territory, were affected by the disaster and warned citizens to be wary of landmines swept downstream.
“Be extremely careful, remember the mine safety rules! Never approach or touch explosive objects!” the country’s national emergency service said in a post shared on social media.
Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional administration, said the intensity of the floods was decreasing, but “due to the significant destruction of the dam, the water will continue to flow downstream”.
The floodwaters will reach their peak on Wednesday.
Prokudin said 1,852 houses were flooded on the west bank of the river, which is still under Ukrainian control, and 1,457 people were evacuated.
According to police officials, the evacuations were complicated by flooded roads and highways in the area.
On the other side of the river, Russian-installed officials said water levels appeared to be falling on Wednesday in Nova Kakhovka, a town taken by Russian forces last year.
Located next to the dam, the small town was quickly inundated by floodwaters on Tuesday. Russian-installed local officials said at least seven people had been reported missing there.
Overnight, the waters reached critical levels in several settlements further downstream, completely submerging the settlements of Korsunka and Oleshky. Authorities declared a state of emergency in Russian-occupied areas and spoke of organized evacuations, although there were no images on local social media on Wednesday of a formal evacuation process.
In his regular evening speech on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his belief that Russian forces occupying the dam deliberately blew it up from the inside, while the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine added that it was done in an attempt to counteroffensive. of Kiev.
“The disaster at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, caused by Russian terrorists, will not stop Ukraine and the Ukrainians. We will still liberate all our land,” Zelenskyy said. “Any Russian act of terror only increases the amount of reparations Russia will pay for its crimes, not the occupiers’ chances of staying on our land.”
The long-awaited military operation to retake Russian-held territory seemed to be gaining momentum in recent days, with a spike in attacks along the 1,000km front line, as well as raids into Russia’s Belgorod region.
Zelenskyy also warned that the flooding would have global consequences and urged the international community to provide support.
“For Africa, Europe, the United States, China, Australia, India, man-made disasters are bad,” he said. “We must stop the Russian evil.”
In New York, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council in an emergency session that the “massive magnitude of the catastrophe” in Kherson will only become apparent in the coming days.
But he said it was already clear it would have “serious and far-reaching consequences for thousands of people in southern Ukraine, on both sides of the frontline, through the loss of homes, food, safe water and livelihoods.”