UKRAINE: Around 42,000 people are in danger from flooding in Russian- and Ukrainian-controlled regions along the Dnipro River following a dam collapse, as the U.N. assistance chief warned of “grave and far-reaching consequences.”
Both Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the massive dam’s collapse on Tuesday, which resulted in floodwaters covering a large area of the conflict in Ukraine and compelled thousands of people to escape.
Ukraine said that Russia intentionally destroyed the hydroelectric station-supplying Nova Kakhovka dam, which was built in the Soviet era.
The beginning of a significant counteroffensive that Russia claims is ineffective was to blame, according to the Kremlin, which accused Ukraine of seeking to divert attention.
Martin Griffiths, the chief of U.N. aid, stated before the Security Council that the dam burst “will have grave and far-reaching consequences for thousands of people in southern Ukraine on both sides of the front line through the loss of homes, food, safe water, and livelihoods.”
“The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will only become fully realised in the coming days,” he added.
No fatalities were initially reported, but a US spokesman, John Kirby, said that the flooding had probably caused ‘many deaths.’
Ukrainian officials estimated that around 42,000 people were at risk from the floods, which are anticipated to reach their peak on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, water levels in Kherson city, which is 60 kilometres (37 miles) downstream from the dam, surged by 3.5 metres (11-1/2 feet), causing families to wade through water up to their knees to flee while dragging plastic bags with their belongings and tiny pets in carriers.
In roughly 80 settlements that were in danger of flooding, buses, trains, and private vehicles were organised to transport residents to safety.
People seeking to leave Kherson were forced to scamper for cover as incoming artillery made cracking noises. Reporters saw four incoming artillery booms in the evening close to a residential area where residents were fleeing.
Some locals in the inundated Nova Kakhovka neighbourhood on the Dnipro’s Russian-controlled bank chose to stay despite being forced to leave, according to media outlets.
Hlib, one of the men, said of running into Russian soldiers: “They say they are ready to shoot without warning.”
A spokeswoman announced via the zoo’s Facebook page that the 300 animals at the Kazkova Dibrova Zoo on the Russian-controlled riverbank had all perished in the flood.
“More and more water is coming every hour. It’s very dirty,” said Yevheniya, a woman in Nova Kakhovka.
The U.S. stated that it was unclear who was to blame, but Robert Wood, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters that it would be absurd for Ukraine to destroy the dam and endanger its own citizens.
The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacking dams in conflict because of the risk to civilians.
In a televised speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy claimed that his prosecutors had contacted the International Criminal Court regarding the dam. On Telegram earlier, he claimed that Russian forces had blown up the power facility from within.
“Residents are sitting on the roofs of their homes waiting to be rescued… This is a Russian crime against people, nature, and life itself,” Oleksiy Kuleba, a senior member of Zelenskiy’s staff, wrote on Telegram.
A sizable portion of the southern Ukrainian countryside, including the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, receives its water supply from the dam. It also serves to cool the nuclear power plant that is under Russian control near Zaporizhzhia.
On Tuesday afternoon, Maxar Technologies captured satellite photographs that revealed a number of inundated structures, several of which were only partially visible.
Maxar stated that more than 2,500 square kilometres (965 square miles) of the area southwest of Kherson city on the Black Sea, between Nova Kakhovka and the Dniprovska Gulf, indicated various towns and villages that had been inundated.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog stated that the upstream Zaporizhzhia facility on the reservoir should have adequate water to cool its reactors for “some months” from a different pond.
Some military observers claimed that the flooding might work to Russia’s advantage by halting or limiting any Ukrainian advance along that portion of the front line as Kyiv gets ready for its eagerly anticipated counteroffensive.
Zelenskiy claimed he had received “a serious, powerful” offer from nations prepared to deploy F-16 fighter jets, boosting Ukraine’s military morale.
In a statement on his website, Zelenskiy was cited as saying, “Our partners know how many aircraft we need. I have already received an understanding of the number from some of our European partners… It is a serious, powerful offer.”
A final agreement with its partners, including “a joint agreement with the United States,” is currently being sought by Kyiv, stated Zelenskiy.
It is not yet clear which of Ukraine’s allies is going to provide it with jets.