By Viktoriia Lakezina
KHERSON, Ukraine (Reuters) – Hundreds of people were evacuated from settlements along the southern stretch of Ukraine’s Dnipro river on Tuesday after water burst through the breached Nova Kakhovka dam, submerging streets, homes and town squares further downstream.
The collapse of the barrier at the southern tip of the vast Kakhovka reservoir unleashed a torrent of water, adding to misery for thousands of people who have been caught on the front lines of war between Ukraine and Russia.
Looking downstream, Russia controls the left bank of the Dnipro and the dam itself, and Ukraine holds the right bank. Each side has blamed the other for causing the damage that triggered the latest crisis in the conflict.
Footage posted on social media shows severe flooding in the Russian-controlled town of Nova Kakhovka, next to the dam.
The town’s Russian-installed mayor said water levels in the town had risen to over 11 metres (36 feet) and that some residents had been taken to hospital. He gave no details.
In one clip, swans swim past the ornate city council building, while in another a sports stadium next to the river is inundated.
The Russian-installed administration of Ukraine’s Kherson region said it was preparing to evacuate three districts – Nova Kakhovka, Golo Pristan and Oleshky. The latter two lie across the mouth of the Dnipro river from the Ukrainian-held regional capital, Kherson.
Water levels there had already risen by more than a metre, residents said, and were expected to rise further.
A video from the Kherson Regional State Administration showed parts of the harbour and containers under water, while homes and streets were also flooded.
“My nieces and nephews, my brother’s children – I am trying to bring them to Kamyshany (village),” said Kherson resident Tetiana Anisimova as she prepared to leave by car.
“I have no idea what we will find there, but my mother is there. For the time being we’ll go to Kamyshany; it is a bit higher up there.”
Ukrainian police released a video showing an officer carrying an old woman to safety and residents wading to safety through knee-deep water in the Kherson region.
Oleksandr Tolokonnikov, a senior official in Ukraine’s Kherson military administration, warned that worse was to come.
“Tomorrow there will be a peak (of flooding), then there will be a decline,” he told an online media briefing.
“We already evacuated about 1,000 people. We have about 50 buses shuttling between Kherson and the affected villages. In Kherson we have four evacuation sites prepared.”
The dam supplies water to a swathe of southern Ukraine’s agricultural land and the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, as well as cooling the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
Its destruction creates a new humanitarian crisis just as Ukraine is starting to unleash a long-awaited counteroffensive to drive Russian troops from its territory.
(Additional reporting by Olena Harmash and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)
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