Ukraine evacuates thousands as water gushes through dam while nuclear plant loses cooling water
Ukrainian President Zelensky said that Russia, which has controlled the dam for more than a year, was responsible for the breach.
Thousands of people are being evacuated Tuesday after a dam in the Ukrainian region of Kherson was breached, causing flooding downstream as water levels fall upstream at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as both Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the damage.
The damaged dam in the city of Nova Kakhovka sits on the Dnieper River, which divides the front line between the Russian-occupied Kherson region and the Ukrainian-controlled Kherson region. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest nuclear plant, is located upstream from Nova Kakhovka and uses waters in the dam's reservoir to cool its systems.
"Over 40 thousand people are in danger of being flooded. Ukrainian authorities are evacuating over 17,000 people," Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin tweeted. "Unfortunately, over 25,000 civilians are on the territory under Russian control. And the occupiers are not carrying out [an] evacuation. This is yet another blatant disregard for human life and international law."
The evacuation comes as Ukraine's Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko says Russia is shelling the region where people are being evacuated, according to the BBC.
Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelensky said that Russia, which has controlled the dam for more than a year, was responsible for the breach.
"It is physically impossible to blow it up somehow from the outside, by shelling. It was mined by the Russian occupiers. And they blew it up," Zelensky tweeted. "Russia has detonated a bomb of mass environmental destruction. This is the largest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades."
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said Ukrainians purposely sabotaged the dam to cut water supplies to Russian-annexed Crimea and because Kyiv's counteroffensive is failing, according to The Washington Post. Ukraine denied Peskov's claims.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that the damage to the dam led to "a significant reduction in the level of the reservoir used to supply cooling water" to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which uses the water to cool reactors, spent fuel ponds and emergency diesel generators.
"Absence of cooling water in the essential cooling water systems for an extended period of time would cause fuel melt and inoperability of the emergency diesel generators," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. "However, our current assessment is that there is no immediate risk to the safety of the plant."