Thousands Flee Waters in Ukraine After Historical Dam Disaster. Recovery May Take Decades.

Photo Credit: Severe flooding downstream from the breached dam in Ukraine.
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By Editor-June 7th, 2023.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from settlements along the southern stretch of Ukraine’s Dnipro River after water burst through the breached Nova Kakhovka dam, submerging streets and town squares in several towns and villages downstream from the dam.

The collapse of the structure at the southern tip of the vast Kakhovka Reservoir on Tuesday unleashed a torrent of water, adding to the misery of thousands of people who have been caught on the front lines of Russia’s war in Ukraine and is likely to lead to the greatest man-made environmental disaster since the Chernobyl nuclear power station melt-down, also in Ukraine.

The World Data Center for Geoinformatics and Sustainable Development, a Ukrainian nongovernmental organisation, estimated that nearly 100 villages and towns would be flooded and the water level would start dropping only after five to seven days.

Both sides warned of a looming environmental disaster. Ukraine’s Presidential Office said about 150 tonnes of oil escaped from the dam machinery and that another 300 tonnes could still leak out.

“The human and environmental cost of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam is a huge humanitarian disaster,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia director.

“The destruction of the Kakhovka dam is a catastrophe that endangers the life, safety and well-being of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people living within range of the flood waters,” she said.

“There must be a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the destruction of the Kakhova dam.”

The dam supplies water to farmland in southern Ukraine and the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. It also cools the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

The UN nuclear watchdog said Europe’s largest nuclear power plant should have enough water to cool its reactors for “some months” from a separate pond even as the reservoir drains out. It called for the pond to be spared.

Damage to the dam creates a new humanitarian disaster just as Ukraine is unleashing a long-awaited counteroffensive to drive Russian troops from its territory.

The Geneva Water Hub, a water research and policy institute, said it was “deeply concerned”.

“The devastating consequences for civilians are likely to reverberate long after the flooding has stopped,” it said in a statement. Other experts have estimated that full recovery from the disaster may take years, if not decades.



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