The affected areas, as well as the fauna and flora, were severely affected by the water bodies, Astrid Sahm, an expert at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, told the APA on Thursday. The destruction of the dam flooded large areas, which also led to an increased risk of infectious diseases. Agriculture is also severely affected. According to Sahm, almost all the harvest in the region was destroyed by large amounts of water. The actual extent of the consequences is currently difficult to assess.
The situation of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is currently not acute, but it is becoming more and more precarious. Nuclear power plant cooling systems depend on the reservoir. Nearby water reservoirs can still be used for this purpose. For Sahm, it was “playing with fire”: in addition to the already tense situation, supply problems and the fact that there was only one working power line to the plant, there were now cooling water problems. According to Sahm, it cannot be ruled out that the nuclear power plant, which has been paralyzed since September, could have “fatal consequences”.
Portal/Maxar Technologies The Ukrainian town of Oleshky is under water
“Conscientiously Accepted Environmental Problems”
In the long term, the dam collapse will drastically change the water supply in southern Ukraine. Agriculture in the affected areas is water intensive, with wine growing, rice growing and the like. The Northern Crimean Canal may dry up as a result of reservoir drainage. If the canal is no longer fed with water, there will be drought on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.
In the war in Ukraine, “environmental problems were very consciously accepted”. This can be seen, for example, in the heavy mining of nature reserves. The destruction of the dam is another point, but “it stands out in the order of magnitude”. Ukraine’s Environment Ministry estimates the war’s environmental damage at $441 billion. In total, more than 2,400 war-related environmental crimes have been accounted for so far. According to Sahm, it will take decades to compensate for the damage caused by the war, and therefore also the environmental damage.
Zelenskyy visited the flooded region
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to the flooded region and got a glimpse of the ongoing evacuations in the Kherson region.
600 km2 flooded
According to Ukrainian sources, the floods cover an area of several hundred square kilometers. “600 square kilometers of the Kherson region are underwater, 32 percent of them on the right bank and 68 percent on the left bank” of the Russian-controlled Dnipro, Kherson region governor Olexandr Prokudin told online media in Thursday. In the regional capital of Kherson, the flood level on Thursday morning was 5.61 meters, as announced by Prokudin. He described the situation in the areas affected by the floods as “extremely difficult”. Despite the danger from the water bodies and heavy Russian bombardment, the evacuation of the flooded area continued. But many people didn’t want to leave the area, Produkin said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to the flooded region on Thursday. In the Kherson region, among other things, he had an idea of the ongoing evacuations, Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel. He also released a video showing him with residents, first responders and soldiers. You can also see houses, of which only the tip of the roof protrudes from the bodies of water.
Portal Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the flooded region
According to the Civil Protection Service of Ukraine, 1,995 people were evacuated from the flooded areas, including 103 children. Floods flooded parts of the regional capital of Kherson. After the dam collapsed, five people died in the nearby town of Nowa Kachowka. This was reported by the Russian state news agency RIA, citing the mayor of the Russian-controlled city.
Additionally, both Ukraine and Russia reported three killed in the Kherson region in attacks from the other side. One civilian was killed by Russian fire during the evacuations, local prosecutors said. For his part, Moscow-based Kherson regional governor Vladimir Saldo said via Telegram that two people were killed by Ukrainian shelling at a site in the Russian-controlled part of the region at a civilian evacuation site. Among them is a pregnant woman. Two other people were injured.
Setback for Russian troops
According to the military in Kiev and US experts, Russian troops suffered losses as a result of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. The occupants were not prepared for the consequences of the dam explosion and therefore lost soldiers, equipment and military technology, the General Staff in Kiev said on Thursday. There are dead, wounded and missing Russian soldiers.
Experts from the US Institute of War Studies (ISW) also found that flooding from the reservoir destroyed Russian frontline defenses. There is no information from Russia about this.
According to Ukrainian sources, the floods forced Russian troops into a major withdrawal. The Russian armed forces had to retreat from five to 15 kilometers because of the bodies of water in the Kherson region, a Ukrainian military spokeswoman said on television. This “virtually halved” Russian bombing in the region.
Water continues to flow freely from the reservoir
The water masses continue to flow out of the reservoir. The water level in the lake has dropped by one meter in 24 hours and was 13.05 meters on Thursday morning (07:00 CEST), the state operator of the Ukrhydroenergo hydropower plant in Kiev said. Masonry is increasingly damaged. Water is flowing freely through the broken dam.
Together with state-owned energy provider Ukrenerho, measures are now being explored to reduce the negative consequences of damage to the Kachowka hydroelectric plant, the group said. For example, the operation of other hydropower plants and dams upstream of the destroyed plant on the Dnipro River must be changed to impound more water in front of the Kakhovka station and reduce pressure and flooding in the south of the country.
Red Cross warns of mines being washed
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) noted the catastrophic impact on the location of landmines following the partial destruction of the dam. “We knew where the dangers lay,” said Erik Tollefsen, head of the ICRC’s Weapons Contamination Unit, on Wednesday. “Now we don’t know anymore. All we know is that they are somewhere downriver.”
This is very worrying, both for the affected population and “for all those who come to help”. Tollefsen commented on the presentation of a drone developed with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI). This can locate mines and explosive debris because of the heat they give off. One day it could be used in Ukraine. For several months, the ICRC has assisted with mine clearance operations in Ukraine, mapping and marking minefields and providing training and equipment. “Now all that has been washed away,” he said. Antipersonnel mines and antitank mines like the TM-57 are now distributed in unknown locations.
Zelenskyy’s critique rejected
Zelenskyy had been critical of organizations like the Red Cross, which he believed should be more active. This was rejected by the secretary general of the German Red Cross (DRK), Christian Reuter. “Of course we’re already there, we were already there,” Reuter said Thursday on Welt-tv. “Currently more than 70 Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers are trying to save people from the floods,” said Reuter.
The mission is dangerous, said the secretary general of the DRC in the face of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the area partially occupied by Russia. However, staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also worked on the line of conflict. Of course, this is only possible if everyone involved in this conflict provides security guarantees. But this is not always the case.
Countries and organizations provide help
However, aid organizations are apparently active in the region. Doctors Without Borders wrote in a broadcast on Wednesday that medical and psychological help is being provided in the area around the town of Kherson for people being evacuated to safety. Hygiene products are distributed and the region’s needs continue to be identified.
Austria, Germany and Lithuania are providing assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Countries would send water tanks, pumps, camp beds and emergency shelters to Ukraine, a European Commission spokesman said on Wednesday. “We continue to mobilize aid,” European Commission spokesman Balazs Ujvari wrote on Twitter.
At the same time, the EU Humanitarian Office in Ukraine is coordinating with its partners to provide rapid assistance to people affected by the floods. Food and drinking water will also be provided.
The United Nations is trying to gain access to the Russian-occupied floodplains. So far, the UN emergency aid office, OCHA, has not been able to confirm an operation in the region, OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said in Geneva on Thursday. “We continue our principled efforts to reach the Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.”
Cause still unclear
Ukraine and Russia continue to blame each other for Tuesday’s Kakhovka dam explosion. ISW experts in Washington, given the evidence and arguments, believe that Russia intentionally destroyed the dam. At the same time, they pointed out that a definitive assessment of responsibility is currently not possible.