Ukrainian dam has been destroyed causing serious flooding near Kherson

A strategically important dam on the Dnipro River in Ukraine has been severely damaged, resulting in large-scale flooding of southern Ukraine and Crimea.
Christopher McFadden
Ukraine dam breach
Ukraine dam breach

Bloomberg Television/YouTube 

A strategically critical hydroelectric dam has been severely damaged on the Dnipro River near Kherson, Ukraine. Called the Nova Kakhovka dam, torrents of water are now threatening settlements downstream and could impact the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to the North. Denounced as an "act of terror" by Ukraine's premier Volodymyr Zelenskiy, no one has claimed responsibility for any attack on the dam.

Whatever the case, thousands of people are now displaced as rising waters downstream threaten to damage homes, infrastructure, and local ecosystems. Recently released aerial footage of the dam on social media show that a significant portion of the dam's main structure is now missing, allowing large amounts of water to escape from the dam's reservoir. The towns situated along the floodwater's path are becoming inundated, with entire houses seen being carried away by the water.

The governor of the Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, said about 16,000 people were in the “critical zone” on the Ukrainian-controlled right bank of the river. He said people were being evacuated for districts upstream of Kherson city and would be taken by bus to the city and then by train to Mykolaiv and other Ukrainian cities, including Khmelnytskyi, Odesa, Kropyvnytskyi, and Kyiv.

The dam is built on the Dnipro River in Ukraine and holds back a massive reservoir with its 30-meter-tall, hundreds of meters wide structure. This dam was constructed in 1956 as a component of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. The reservoir holds an estimated 18 cubic kilometers of water, about the same volume as the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

The reservoir's water serves multiple purposes such as supplying water to the annexed Crimean peninsula in the South and powering the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant. Additionally, the water is used by the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which happens to be Europe's largest.

The loss of such a dam will further aggravate Ukraine's ongoing energy crisis as Russian forces have already been targeting crucial infrastructure for months. Furthermore, it would also damage the canal system that irrigates a significant portion of southern Ukraine, including Crimea.

The Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine has been a potential target since Russia's war against the country began. Its strategic importance and the potential damage caused by its destruction make it a valuable target. Russia captured the dam during its invasion in February 2022 and has held it ever since.

In October, while Ukraine was retaking significant portions of occupied Kherson, Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to the West to caution Russia against destroying the dam. He warned that such an act would result in the flooding of a vast region in southern Ukraine. Zelenskiy further alleged that Russian troops had already placed explosives inside the dam.

Zelenskiy said “Destroying the dam would mean a large-scale disaster” and compared such an act to the use of weapons of mass destruction. Russian officials have denied any such action, and have counter-accused Ukrainian forces of attacking and shelling the dam themselves.

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