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Villagers survey flooded homes and wait for help after Ukraine dam breach


NOVA KAKHOVKA, Russian-controlled Ukraine (Reuters) – Villagers on the Russian side of the front line in Ukraine surveyed the damage to their flooded homes from a massive dam breach and waited for help from the authorities on Wednesday, while people clamoured for information in chat rooms.

Russian-installed officials ordered residents of three districts to leave their homes on Tuesday as water surged from the collapsed Kakhovka dam, with Ukraine and Russia each accusing the other of blowing it up.

Vladimir Saldo, the top Russian-installed official in the Kherson region, said on Wednesday he had declared a state of emergency. So far 1,500 people had been evacuated from flooded settlements and 48 temporary accommodation centres had been set up, he said.

In the town of Nova Kakhovka right next to the dam, brown water covered main streets which were largely empty of residents. On the bank of the Dnipro River by the “Enerhiya” stadium, small trees were submerged nearly up to their leaves. In residential areas, locals stood in knee-high water beside their flooded cars.

Valery Melnik, 53, waded through what remained of his home. Ankle-high floodwater lapped against a refrigerator and a green couch, and valuables had been placed out of reach.

“We’re waiting until the water leaves, we will dry it out,” Melnik said. He added that he had hoped for help from the local authorities to pump out the water, but so far “they are not doing anything.”

Up to 100 people in the Russian-controlled town are trapped, said the town’s Russian-installed mayor, Vladimir Leontyev.

Water levels in Nova Kakhovka had started to recede by midday Wednesday, he said in an interview posted to his Telegram channel. Six hundred residential buildings, a kindergarten, a school and a convent were flooded, and 900 people had been evacuated, he added.

Earlier, Leontyev said that over 30,000 cubic metres of water was pouring out of the dam’s reservoir every second, and the town was at risk of contamination from the floods, TASS news agency reported.

Several people told Reuters they had been unable to contact their relatives in the flood-affected areas, and were pleading in chat groups for information.

Farther down river in the village of Stara Zbur’ivka, residents are offering each other evacuation assistance in small boats, Katya, a woman from the area who now lives outside Ukraine, told Reuters. In her village group chat, Katya said residents reported the water was waist-deep. Only about 20 people live in the settlement, she said.

“They just don’t understand what kind of pain it is, when your childhood home goes underwater,” she said. “There are animals and elderly people there. I hope they are rescued quickly.”

(Reporting by Reuters in Nova Kakhovka; additional reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Philippa Fletcher)

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