Aerial images have shown the extent of flooding in Ukraine’s south after a huge explosion at the region’s Kakhovka dam.
Hundreds of thousands of residents in the Ukrainian controlled area of Kherson were ordered to evacuate following the incident at the major dam and hydroelectric power station on Tuesday.
Some spent the night on rooftops to avoid the torrents, while officials warned that floodwaters were expected to rise further.
Ukraine has accused Russia of blowing up the dam, which sits in an area Moscow has controlled for more than a year.
In turn, Russia blamed Ukrainian bombardment in the contested area, where the breached Dnieper River separates the two sides.
Residents sloshed through knee-deep waters in inundated homes as videos posted on social media showed scenes including rescue workers carrying people to safety and what looked like the triangular roof of an entire building that had been uprooted drifting downstream.
Footage taken from the air showed waters filling the streets of Russian-controlled Nova Kakhovka on the eastern side of the river.
Footage captured the explosion’s fallout
The city’s Russia-appointed mayor, Vladimir Leontyev, said seven people were missing but early signs indicated that they could be alive. Officials in Russia-controlled parts of Kherson region said 900 Nova Kakhovka residents were evacuated, including 17 rescued from the tops of flooded buildings.
In Ukrainian-controlled areas on the western side, Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of Kherson Regional Military administration, said in a video that water levels were expected to rise by another metre on Wednesday.
“The intensity of floods is slightly decreasing; however, due to the significant destruction of the dam, the water will keep coming,” he said.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence, which has regularly issued updates about the war, said the Kakhovka reservoir was at “record high” water levels before the breach. While the dam wasn’t entirely washed away, the ministry warned that its structure “is likely to deteriorate further over the next few days, causing additional flooding.”
Together with the power station, the dam helps provide electricity, irrigation and drinking water to a wide swath of southern Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
Government and UN officials have warned of a human and ecological disaster whose repercussions will take days to assess and far longer to recover from.
The dam break, which both sides long feared, added a new dimension to Russia’s war, now in its 16th month. Ukrainian forces were widely seen to be moving forward with a long-anticipated counteroffensive in patches along more than 1,000 kilometres of front line in the east and south.