Zelenskyy Visits Flooded Ukraine Area 06/08 06:19
Five residents of a Russian-occupied city next to a breached dam have died
in massive flooding triggered by the catastrophe, its Kremlin-appointed mayor
said Thursday, the first official report of deaths from one of the largest
environmental crises since Russia's invasion of Ukraine more than 15 months ago.
KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) -- Five residents of a Russian-occupied city next to a
breached dam have died in massive flooding triggered by the catastrophe, its
Kremlin-appointed mayor said Thursday, the first official report of deaths from
one of the largest environmental crises since Russia's invasion of Ukraine more
than 15 months ago.
Vladimir Leontyev, the Russian-appointed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, told
Russian state TV that two other people who had gone missing after Tuesday's dam
breach had been found, and efforts were underway to evacuate them.
Officials say more than 6,000 people have been evacuated from dozens of
inundated cities, towns and villages on both the Russian and
Ukrainian-controlled sides of the Dnieper river, which has become part of the
front line between the fighting forces.
The collapse of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam and emptying of its reservoir
on the river have added to the misery that the region has suffered for more
than a year from artillery and missile attacks. Rescue workers fanned out to
get drinking water to beleaguered locals, warning that contaminated water could
Thousands of people have been left homeless, cropland has been ruined,
access to electricity and mobile phone networks has been limited or cut off
entirely, and land mines have been displaced by the surging waters, officials
On the Ukrainian-controlled western bank, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
arrived Thursday to evaluate the response to damage caused by the dam breach,
including efforts to evacuate civilians and provide them with drinking water
and other support.
After visiting an aid distribution point and a medical facility, Zelenskyy
ordered Ukrainian officials to provide a "fair valuation" of flood damages and
develop a scheme to compensate residents whose property was damaged or whose
businesses had to relocate, his office said in an online update.
In areas that they administer, Russian-appointed authorities said nearly two
dozen people have been hospitalized, 4,280 people have been evacuated and some
14,000 buildings have been flooded.
Russian officials say the destruction of the dam, which created a giant
reservoir of water used for irrigation and drinking water, will eventually halt
fresh water supplies to Russian-controlled Crimea, even though the peninsula
has enough fresh water for now -- with its reservoirs 80% full.
Ukrainian authorities cut off fresh water supplies to Crimea after Moscow's
illegal annexation of the peninsula in 2014, and Russian President Vladimir
Putin cited the need to restore them among the main reasons for his decision to
Regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said the average level of flooding
Thursday morning in the region was more than 5.6 meters (18 feet) and roughly
600 square kilometers (231 square miles) of the region were submerged -- more
than two-thirds of that on the Russian-controlled eastern bank.
He said nearly 2,000 people had been evacuated from Ukraine-controlled
areas, and the operations were continuing despite constant shelling from
Russian forces across the river.
"People are tired ... (they) have no desire to flee to other regions of
Ukraine," Prokudin said.
The true scale of the disaster is yet to emerge in an affected area that was
home to more than 60,000 people.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that the destruction of the dam was
an "attack" and an "atrocious act," without saying who is to blame. Paris said
it was rushing aid including water purifiers, 500,000 water purification
tablets and hygiene kits to help people displaced by the disaster.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of purposely destroying the dam,
which is located in an area controlled by Russian forces.
President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, a key ally of Russian President
Vladimir Putin, backed the Russian claim that Ukraine blew up the dam to
distract attention from what it described as a botched Ukrainian attempt to
launch a counteroffensive.
"They needed to cover up the three days of their 'counteroffensive' in which
they lost nearly 200 armored vehicles and more than 2,000 troops," he said
during Thursday's meeting with officials. "And so it's all about Kakhovka and
no one is talking about that. It's quite obvious."