KHERSON-Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the region flooded by the breached Kakhovka dam Thursday, as Moscow-installed authorities said five people had been killed in the disaster.
The dam was breached on Tuesday, forcing thousands to flee their homes as water surged into the Dnipro River, flooding dozens of villages and parts of the regional capital Kherson and sparking fears of a humanitarian disaster. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of causing the breach, which on Thursday had left 600 square kilometres underwater, according to a regional governor.
Zelensky posted videos on Thursday showing him meeting officials in the Kherson region, as well as footage of people being evacuated at a crossing point. “I thank the rescuers and volunteers! I thank everyone involved in this work!” he wrote.
Rescuers were using boats and amphibious vehicles to pluck people from flooded areas. One woman, Tetiana Omelchenko, 65, said she had waited two days for evacuation from her block of flats and had to climb through a broken window to reach a rescue boat.
“In my building, the water has reached the third floor and there are still people in there,” she said. An employee at Kherson’s meteorological agency, Lora Musiyan, waded into the water to mark the current level: 5.33 metres above the norm. “That’s the height of two storeys -- you can only survive this on a roof,” she said. Musiyan said the level of water “has started falling slightly. If this trend continues, that will be good news for residents.” Officials said 2,629 houses were flooded in the Ukrainian-controlled area.
Some residents pleaded with rescuers to go back to flats to rescue pets left behind.
“My cat has been in the flat for three days without food, she’s dying,” said Olena, 59, covering her face with her hands. But her block of flats is in an area where the current is too strong for the rescuers’ motor boats.
Ukrainian authorities have said 30 settlements have been flooded, 10 of which lie in territory controlled by Russia on the Dnipro’s eastern bank.
A total of 600 square kilometres (230 square miles) of the Kherson region is underwater, governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on social media, 68 percent of which is in Russian-controlled territory.