Ukraine Says Russia Shelled Flooded Area During Evacuation

Zelensky visited disaster area hours earlier
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 8, 2023 2:00 PM CDT

Russian forces on Thursday shelled a southern Ukrainian city that was inundated in a catastrophic dam collapse, Ukrainian officials said, forcing a suspension of some rescue work hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to the area to assess the damage. At least five people have died, many are homeless, and tens of thousands are without drinking water after the Kakhovka dam's destruction, the AP reports. In Kherson city, the largest municipality affected, repeated Russian shelling echoed overhead in the early afternoon not far from a square where emergency crews and volunteers were dispensing aid. Some evacuation points in the city were hit, wounding eight people, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

As shells landed in floodwaters, rescue workers temporarily suspended efforts to retrieve stranded residents and pets. "The strikes began during evacuation of the residents, whose houses were flooded," the ministry said. “Russia has abandoned people in calamity in the occupied part of the Kherson region. It continues to prevent Ukraine from saving the most valuable—human lives.” The dam lay along Dnieper River, a pivotal waterway that forms part of the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up the facility, which Moscow's forces controlled, while Russia said Ukraine bombarded it. The ensuing flooding has ruined crops, displaced land mines, wrought widespread environmental damage, and set the stage for long-term electricity shortages. Drone footage captured by the AP shows the ruined dam falling into the flooded river and hundreds of submerged homes, greenhouses, and even a church. Regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said the average level of flooding Thursday morning in the region was more than 18 feet and roughly 231 square miles of the region were submerged—more than two-thirds of that on the Russian-controlled eastern bank.

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Officials say more than 6,000 people have been evacuated from dozens of inundated cities, towns and villages on both sides of the river. The true scale of the disaster is yet to emerge in an affected area that was home to more than 60,000 people. (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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