A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows a closer view of the destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric plant in the Kherson region, southern Ukraine, 06 June 2023. EFE-EPA/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES HANDOUT -- MANDATORY CREDIT: SATELLITE IMAGE 2023 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES -- THE WATERMARK MAY NOT BE REMOVED/CROPPED -- HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Zelenskyy visits flood-hit Kherson after dam burst kills 5 in Russia-held region

Kyiv/Moscow, June 8 (EFE).- Thousands have been evacuated from flooded villages on either side of a river that cuts through the Ukrainian and Russia-controlled territories in southern Ukraine after the strategic Kakhovka dam burst due to an alleged explosion.

A man sitting on a bench next to his dog, looks at flood water facing him, in Kherson, Ukraine, 06 June 2023. EFE-EPA/IVAN ANTYPENKO

Ukrainian rescuers Thursday said they evacuated more than 2,000 people from the submerged areas.

People stand next to an inflatable boat as a car drives past them in a flooded street of Kherson, Ukraine, 06 June 2023. EFE-EPA/IVAN ANTYPENKO

The authorities said the overflowing dam water had inundated some 600 square kilometers of the region after Russia allegedly bombed the reservoir to stop Ukrainian forces from advancing toward the Russia-occupied region.

The regional military administration in Kherson said the average water level was 5.61 meters near the damaged dam that sits on the Dnieper River.

The military emphasized that more than 30 percent of the flooded area is on the western side of the river, which is under Ukrainian control. Russia controls the rest of the eastern bank.

The river, which has become one of the major fronts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, cuts the Kherson province, dividing it into the regions controlled by the neighbors at war with each other.

The New Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station, which forms part of the destroyed dam, sits on the eastern bank and is under Russian control.

Ukraine claims that Russia blew up the dam with explosives from inside. Moscow has denied the allegation, blaming Ukrainian forces for the disaster.

Vladimir Leontyev, the Russia-appointed mayor of the occupied region, said Thursday that the authorities would start pumping water from the affected areas.

He said the flood water had started receding, and the level was already down by 1.2 meters.

“The water continues to drop, not as fast as we would like,” he said.

Russian Tass news agency said the collapse of the hydroelectric plant had caused a “serious environmental” catastrophe.

“Farmlands along the Dnieper River have been washed away, and there is a risk that the North Crimean Canal will become shallow,” the news agency said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the alleged attack by the Ukrainians to destroy the power plan was “a deliberate act of sabotage.”

He said the Kyiv regime should bear full responsibility for the consequences.

The floods have forced the evacuation of more than 4,000 citizens on the eastern side of the river.

“Some 4,280 people, including over 170 children and 42 persons with reduced mobility, have been evacuated,” a Russian emergency services spokesperson said.

The Russian authorities have not yet reported the number of casualties in the disaster.

On Wednesday, the authorities said at least seven people were missing.

The Ukrainian authorities have said one person died in the heavily flooded Russia-controlled Oleshki town.

“We already have one person who died. Two more have been taken to the hospital. I think there will be many more,” said Ukrainian city mayor Yevhen Ryschuk.

In his daily address on Wednesday night, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the situation in the occupied Kherson region “is absolutely catastrophic.”

He said the Russians had “abandoned the residents in terrible conditions,” without providing them with water, food, and medical attention. EFE