Dam rupture in Cherson: “Everything will die here”

A brown tide flows through the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. After the dam burst, many people are faced with the ruins of their lives.

Cherson in the Ukraine: 52-year-old Iryna is standing with her neighbors on the banks of the Dnipro and is stunned by the masses of water that are pouring in over the city. The residents fear the worst since the dam upstream from Kakhovka was partially destroyed on Tuesday night and the floods of the Dnipro have penetrated their city. Many are faced with the ruins of their existence. You curse Russia.

Around 17,000 people are said to have left their homes on the Ukrainian side, including Iryna. “We have no electricity, no gas, no water,” says the woman, crying. “Our vegetable gardens are flooded.” The 52-year-old worries that the catastrophe could take on even greater proportions.

Kherson: A woman cries as she is evacuated from a flooded neighborhood. (Source: Roman Hrytsyna/dpa)

After the occupation came the flood

From the beginning, Kherson was one of the main theaters of the war. From March to November 2022, the city on the west bank of the Dnipro was occupied by Russian troops until Ukraine recaptured it. Since then, she has repeatedly come under heavy fire. As a result, hardly anyone reacts to the sound of a siren announcing an air raid in the distance.

“We were occupied for nine months, and now the damned occupiers have flooded us,” says Iryna. Nurse Svitlana also blames the Russian army for the flooding. She is now even more “hateful and angry,” she says. Both women wonder if they will ever be able to return to their homes.
A man uses a stand up paddleboard to reach his home in a flooded neighborhood. (Source: Roman Hrytsyna/dpa)

“We will have problems when all the water is gone,” says 56-year-old Switlana. “How can everything be restored, how will that work? How will we live here again? I can’t imagine it.” Another resident, Serhiy, is even more pessimistic. “Everything will die here,” he says. “All living beings and people will be washed away here.”

Residents try to save belongings

As the muddy water spills over the embankments and roads, people hurry to pack up their belongings in preparation for evacuation. Lyudmyla is standing next to her house by a trailer with her belongings and a washing machine in it. “We continue to raise our holdings,” she says. The Russians, she says, should be “driven out.” “They shoot at us.”

Some residents have gathered on flyovers and railroad bridges, looking down at the brown water below. From there you can best observe how high the water level is. Konstantin estimates that he climbed at least three meters. And someone named Viktor says, “The tide is coming. You can see that clearly.”

“People want to go home as soon as possible”

Rescue teams in small boats and water-capable amphibious vehicles are all over the city, mainly to reach small children and the elderly.
Residents are evacuated from their flooded neighborhoods, some by boat. (Source: Roman Hrytsyna/dpa)

Some of the residents only carry their passport with them. “If possible, people send us their location data and we pick them up and their pets,” says 38-year-old police officer Sergiy, one of the coordinators of the rescue operation, which involves police officers, paramedics and soldiers. Some residents do not wait for the helpers, but wade and swim through the flood waters to get to safety. A man paddles on an inflatable mattress.


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