The devastation caused by the Kakhovka dam breach was reflected in the gloomy expression of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today as he visited the Kherson region, where thousands continue to flee their homes.
The battle-hardened leader looked unusually emotional as he took in the magnitude of the flood – described as Europe’s worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl.
Kiev saved nearly 20,000 people from the resulting deluge last night. Another 40,000 people are being evacuated as streets in dozens of settlements have turned into rivers.
As Ukrainians are evacuated from the affected areas, the Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka said on Russian state television that five people were killed.
Moscow-backed mayor Vladimir Leontyev said those killed were among seven local residents reported missing after the dam collapsed. The two others were found, he said, and efforts were made to evacuate them.
Aerial photos show homes submerged by the high water, showing people’s abandoned homes, livelihoods, belongings and pets
Zelensky was flanked by army protection and military leaders as he assessed the destruction
Chilling aerial photos show homes submerged by the high water, showing people’s abandoned homes, livelihoods, possessions and pets.
Rescue workers used boats and amphibious vehicles to pull people out of flooded areas.
President Zelensky thanked the brave rescuers and volunteers and said ‘our job is to protect lives and help people as much as possible’.
One woman, Tetiana Omelchenko, 65, said she waited two days to be evacuated from her apartment building and had to climb through a broken window to reach a lifeboat.
“In my building, the water has reached the third floor and there are still people inside,” she said.
An employee of the Kherson meteorological office, Lora Musiyan, waded into the water to mark the current level: 5.33 meters above the norm.
“That’s the height of two stories – you can only manage this on a roof,” she said.
Russia’s state news agency Tass, citing emergency services in the occupied region, said up to 14,000 homes have been flooded and nearly 4,300 people have been evacuated.
Zelensky seemed to hold back his emotion as he surveyed the flooded area. He was visiting a crossing where people are being evacuated
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (center) speaks with Ihor Klymenko (CR), head of the National Police of Ukraine, during a visit to Kherson
Grain storage is under water after the collapse of the Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region
Twenty-three people were seen by doctors, 21 of whom were hospitalized, medical services reported.
President Zelensky also met with advisers to consider how to proceed after the widespread flooding.
He wrote on Telegram: “Many important issues have been discussed. The operational situation in the region due to the disaster, the evacuation of the population from potential flood areas, the ending of the emergency caused by the dam explosion, the organization of life support for the flooded areas,” he said on his Telegram channel.
“Also the prospects for recovery of the region’s ecosystem and the operational military situation in the man-made disaster area.”
Rescuers drive an all-terrain vehicle during an evacuation from a flooded area in Kherson
The destruction of the dam on the Dnieper River that separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine will displace tens of thousands of people.
On Twitter, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrij Melnyk compared the flooding to the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, which sent a radioactive cloud over Europe.
‘The worst environmental disaster in Europe since the Chernobyl disaster. Only this time, Moscow deliberately used this weapon of mass destruction against the Ukrainians. Who else wants to negotiate with Putin?’ He wrote.
Homes and industrial buildings are barely visible above the region’s vast flood waters
The extent of the devastation caused by the explosion at the Kakhovka dam was exposed yesterday. Nearly 20,000 people were saved from the resulting deluge. Another 40,000 are evacuated. In the photo: Streets in Kherson, Ukraine, flooded yesterday
A local resident rides a paddleboard during an evacuation from a flooded area in Kherson
A local resident swims past a house in a flooded area in Kherson yesterday
A volunteer helps a cat trapped in a flooded house in Kherson, Ukraine, yesterday
The cause of the blasts that destroyed the dam is not yet clear, but Ukraine warned late last year that Russian troops had mined the dam as they retreated from Kherson.
The Ukrainian state hydropower company said the Kakhovka plant was destroyed by an explosion in its engine room, suggesting it had been attacked from within rather than by outside attacks.
Ukrainian authorities said 17,000 people were evacuated and a total of 24 villages were flooded.
“More than 40,000 people are at risk of being flooded,” Attorney General Andriy Kostin said, adding that another 25,000 people had to be evacuated on the Russian-occupied side of the Dnieper.
“The evacuation will continue tomorrow and in the coming days – by bus and train,” presidential adviser Oleksiy Kuleba said late Tuesday.
Terrifying video shows homes being swept away and entire cities engulfed by the deluge.
Village streets and fields near the dam have been inundated by flooding as a Russian-installed local mayor warned that water levels would continue to rise for another 72 hours and claimed he expected floods of 40 feet (12 meters) in places.
Last October, Zelensky accused Russia of placing mines at the dam and warned its destruction would spur a new wave of refugees to Europe.