Thousands flee flood waters as UN warns of 'grave' impact from Ukraine dam breach

The United Nations warned of "grave and far-reaching consequences" for thousands of people following the destruction of part of a major dam in a Russian-controlled area of southern Ukraine.

The U.N.'s humanitarian aid chief Martin Griffiths made the comments while addressing the international body's Security Council late Tuesday. He said the scale of the catastrophe, which has triggered huge floods, mass evacuations and endangered Europe's largest nuclear power plant, will only become clear in the coming days.

 The Ukraine military said Russian forces had retreated a few miles from the area around the dam but continued to shell the swamped city of Kherson.

"They searched those areas of Kherson that were flooded," military spokesperson Nataliya Gumenyuk said Wednesday on Ukrainian TV. "They fired at the shopping center, perceiving it as a hub where (people) can gather for help."

Satellite images show towns submerged, structures swept away and flood waters surging toward the Black Sea. In some communities, residents spent the night on rooftops or perched on trees awaiting rescue. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that "hundreds of thousands" have been left without access to drinking water.


∙ At least 20,000 homes and businesses remain without electricity, 129 transformer substations were flooded in Kherson, and two solar power plants were flooded in Mykolayiv, Ukraine's energy ministry reported Wednesday.

∙Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up the dam wall, while Russia blamed Ukrainian shelling. But accidental disaster had not been ruled out − the dam was already in disrepair, vulnerable to collapse and had produced no power since November, according to local authorities.

Visual storyHow destruction of vital Ukraine dam unleashed floods that threaten thousands

At least 16,000 left homeless

Authorities and rescue workers on both sides Wednesday stepped up efforts to pull residents to higher ground. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at least 16,000 people have lost homes. Vladimir Leontyev, the Russia-installed mayor of the occupied city of Nova Kakhovka, said seven people were missing.

Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of Kherson Regional Military administration, said in a video that the "intensity of the floods was slightly decreasing." Even so, authorities said water levels were expected to rise and engulf more downriver areas along the banks of the Dnipro River.

In an intelligence updated posted on Twitter, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the dam structure itself was “likely to deteriorate further over the next few days, causing additional flooding.”

Zelenskyy accused Russia of 'ecocide'

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the dam's destruction as a Russian war crime, accusing the Kremlin's forces of "ecocide" for detonating" an environmental bomb of mass destruction." He said Russia has controlled the area around the dam for more than a year, making it impossible for Ukraine to have caused the damage. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without normal access to drinking water, he said, adding that Ukrainian services, can only help on the territory controlled by Ukraine.

"On the part occupied by Russia, the occupiers are not even trying to help people," he said.

Russia blames Ukraine, calls for international investigation

U.S. intelligence is pointing to Russia being behind an apparent assault on the dam, NBC News reported. The dam is situated in a territory that is held by Russian forces on the Dnipro River.Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called for an international investigation into the cause of the dam collapse and blasted the West for assuming Russia was to blame.

"The reaction of the West in all such situations is 100% predictable," Zakharova told Russian state media. "It is an endless desire to blame Russia for everything that happens, regardless of whether it actually happened or is a figment of the imagination."

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Ukraine of "deliberate sabotage" and said the Kyiv regime should bear full responsibility.

Local residents carry their belongings as they evacuate from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 6, 2023

New power plant will be built 'very quickly'

Ihor Syrota, head of the state-owned Ukrhydroenergo power company, said the peak of water spillage was expected today. Then the situation will begin to stabilize, and in 4-5 days the water will begin to recede, he said. The power plant, however, is a total loss. Additional wells will be drilled in Kherson and Mykolaiv regions to provide fresh water.

"The hydraulic structures are being eroded and we understand that we will have to build a new station very quickly," Syrota said. "We will build a more beautiful and powerful plant on the same site."

Who was behind the dam attack?

More than 24 hours after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam was first reported, both Ukraine and Russia are continuing to blame each other for the incident.

Contributing: Associated Press

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