Ukraine dam collapse: Thousands at risk as both Moscow, Kyiv blame each other for disaster

The US said it was uncertain who was responsible for the dam breach

UKRAINE-CRISIS/ A satellite image shows a close-up view of Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power facility in Ukraine | Reuters

The breach of the Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro river which separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine has put over 42,000 people at flood risk.

The breach of the dam has sent floodwaters across Kherson, forcing thousands to flee. Satellite images taken on Tuesday afternoon by Maxar Technologies showed houses and other buildings submerged in over 2,500 square km (965 square miles) between Nova Kakhovka and the Dniprovska Gulf, southwest of Kherson city on the Black Sea.

According to the UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, the disaster would have "grave and far-reaching consequences." Griffiths told Security Council that the dam breach will have grave and far-reaching consequences for thousands of people in southern Ukraine on both sides of the front line through the loss of homes, food, safe water and livelihoods.

"The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will only become fully realised in the coming days," he said. Though no deaths have been reported, the Russian state-backed TASS news agency claimed at least seven people are missing after waters from the dam flooded nearby areas.

Vladimir Leontiev, Moscow-appointed mayor of Nova Kakhvovka, said: "We are clarifying the information on the missing people now. We know about seven people for sure."

However, U.S. spokesperson John Kirby said the flooding had probably caused "many deaths".

Meanwhile, both Kyiv and Moscow accused each other of causing the dam's breach. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed Russian forces for blowing up the dam and said that his prosecutors had approached the International Criminal Court about the dam. 

Inna Sovsun, a member of Ukraine's parliament, told CNN that the explosion came from within." So it had to be done by someone who had control over the territory, and those are the Russians. They are the only ones who could have actually done this," she added. "We do not have access to the territory now and we did not have access to the territory yesterday to set up such an explosion."

However, Kremlin blamed it on Ukraine, saying it was trying to distract from the launch of the "faltering" counteroffensive.

But, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the incident an act of "sabotage by the Kyiv regime." It alleged that Ukraine had launched "mass artillery attacks" against the dam and "deliberately brought the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir to a critical level by opening the Dneprovsk Hydroelectric Power Plant’s floodgates."

Meanwhile, hundreds are fleeing the area near the dam as the water level rose. Carrying plastic bags full of possessions and small pets in carriers, they squeezed inside buses, trains and private vehicles 

"Everything is submerged in water, all the furniture, the fridge, food, all flowers, everything is floating. I do not know what to do," 53-year-old Oksana told Reuters.

Vladimir Leontiev also confirmed that hundreds of people have been evacuated from the town by Russia. "Yesterday about 900 people were moved from the flooded areas to safe places," Leontiev said. "We are confident that today will bring quite a lot of calming, positive news." 

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