Residents of Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine’s Kherson region spent the night clinging to rooftops and begging to be evacuated as floodwaters from the Nova Kakhovka dam collapse swallowed up more homes Wednesday.
Many took to social media with desperate pleas for help, accusing Russian proxy authorities of abandoning them to fend for themselves.
“Please help my parents, just a little bit more and they will drown!” one person wrote in a local Telegram group, where residents posted their addresses in the hopes of a rescue.
“Are rescue operations underway or are they still just compiling lists?” another resident wrote.
Residents of the towns of Oleshky, Hola Prystan, and Zabaryne—all currently under Russian control—said they hadn’t even seen any rescuers on the scene yet, according to Astra.
At least 100 people in Oleshky alone were still waiting to be evacuated, according to the independent outlet Verstka.
“My mother is next to me on the roof. Give me an answer please, will there be help? Signal to all your sources, or these will be the last words of the doomed,” one woman was quoted pleading with the outlet.
Many of those trapped amid the flooding were elderly or disabled.
“There’s three meters of water. We’re in a two-story house and not yet on the roof, but not for long. The first floor is already flooded and there is only a meter left to the second,” a resident named Alyona told Verstka. “We are gathering all the people who are on roofs here, we will bring them by boat to one place. We filed a request for evacuation, but it hasn’t happened. They say, ‘Wait.’ There are four people with us now, and six more are coming. Among them is a blind, disabled person.”
Russian state-controlled media reported that at least seven people were missing after the dam collapse. Ukrainian authorities said more than 1,400 people had been evacuated from the Kherson region as of early Wednesday, and for those left behind in heavily flooded areas, all routes out have been blocked.
“There are practically no evacuation routes, the occupying authorities removed themselves from these responsibilities,” Tatyana Gasanenko, the head of the Oleshky city administration, told Suspilne News.
“The evacuation on the left bank has been completely botched by the occupiers,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday, promising to appeal to international organizations to help with further evacuations.
Drone footage from Oleshky captured a mother with two children pleading for help from their rooftop.
Russian proxy authorities, meanwhile, have largely played down the severity of the flooding, refuting Ukrainian media reports that a zoo in Nova Kakhovka had been ravaged and hundreds of animals killed.
“Last year, all the animals were evacuated and transported [elsewhere]. Not a single animal was left there,” Vladimir Leontyev, the Russian-backed “head” of the Nova Kakhovka administration, told RIA Novosti, calling the Ukrainian media reports “fake.” Russian state-controlled media also quoted an unnamed local official who insisted there “is no zoo” in the area.
While the Kremlin has accused Kyiv of blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam, experts and engineers interviewed by The New York Times said the most likely explanation for the dam collapse was a “deliberate explosion” on the inside of the structure. Structural failure or an attack on the outside were seen as “less plausible,” according to the Times.
Local residents living near the dam also reported hearing a loud blast at the time the dam collapsed.
Russia’s puppet leader in the region, Vladimir Saldo, admitted that the dam collapse works out in Moscow’s favor.
“A space opens up for our armed forces—it will be visible who tries to cross the water and how,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Saldo as saying. “From a military point of view, the situation has now developed operationally and tactically in favor of the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”
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