The waters of the Dnipro River have begun to flood the coastal areas of the Kherson region as a result of the break of the dam and the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) on June 6. A day after the catastrophe, the towns of Oleshky, Nova Kakhovka and Korsunka were flooded, as well as part of the regional capital Kherson. Part of the flooded area is controlled by Ukraine, while the rest is under Russian occupation.
According to Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, about 1,700 people were evacuated by 1 p.m. local time on July 7. Three people are officially missing, police said. 1,802 homes were flooded in Kherson alone.
Prokudin said that the Russian army “continues shelling residential areas,” creating additional risks for rescuers and people trying to leave the flooded area. He also accused Russia of hacking the regional administration's hotline, which receives calls from people in need of help.
Ukrainian photographers Kostiantyn & Vlada Liberov, who publish photos and videos from Kherson on their Instagram page, reported that they came under fire on June 7, posting posts with the sounds of explosions. According to Vlada Liberova, the water in the city reaches up to her neck in some places, and in other streets you can move knee-deep in water. Judging by the published video footage, Ukrainian National Guard servicemen and volunteers are busy evacuating residents. People are being removed from rooftops and balconies and taken out in boats.
The Ukrainian military is also using drones to deliver drinking water to people stranded in their homes.
In Russian-occupied territory, volunteers coordinate their actions in specially created chats, where they also exchange addresses and coordinates of people surrounded by water and waiting for help. A volunteer named Olga [name changed] told The Insider that she and her associates are gathering information on Oleshky, Hola Prystan and Kardashink – towns located on the left bank of the Dnipro River. The worst situation has been confirmed in Oleshky, where multiple streets are reported to have been completely flooded.
According to Olga, at first volunteers advised residents to call the region’s military administration and Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS), but their calls fell on deaf ears. The Russian army also prevented volunteers from entering the disaster zone. The volunteers then decided to help from a distance by systematizing information. According to Olga, her organization has confirmed close to 500 locations where people are waiting in groups of 3 to 15 people, and volunteers have made an interactive map to systematize the information. Elderly and disabled citizens, as well as women with children are among those waiting for help.
“They are all in a very difficult situation, there are many reports of people already sitting in the attic and their feet in the water. [...] Cars can't get through there, and where they can, the military won't let them in. Volunteers with boats and commercial haulers tried to go there today, but no one was allowed in. We began to think about how to help those that are trapped, and it’s clear that there are those who are trying to organize themselves in the flooded areas, and we’re trying to do the same thing. If people write that they have a boat in their yard and if there is a sturdy man on the next street, we link them up so that they can get out of those places where everything is flooded, to where the dry area is.
The Emergency Ministry’s there, they might be able to get someone out, but that obviously doesn't correlate with the scale of the problem. We have at least a thousand people sitting on roofs. They’re not just flooded: the people who write [to us] are in a very difficult situation, when they need help literally within hours. If you look at the local chats, where people talk, most of the people who organized themselves are actually in charge of getting people out.”
Interactive map of the disaster zone put together by volunteers
Meanwhile, the Russia-installed “governor” of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, claimed on air of the state TV channel Russia 24 that children are being evacuated from the flooded areas, while adults apparently do not want to leave. Saldo also claimed that there were no requests for help from local residents, and people are allegedly calmly waiting for the water to recede.
The Ministry of Emergency Situations’ lack of response in the occupied territories was confirmed by another volunteer, Yaroslav, in a conversation with The Insider. According to the volunteer, on June 6 he appealed to the rescue service, because his father, who recently suffered a stroke, is in Oleshky.
“I was told that they would work all night, that they sent a group there, but then it turned out that no boat went and no one took people away. In the evening I realized that this was going nowhere, so I formed my own group, and we started contacting each other, making phone calls, and doing something to evacuate. We had no boats or watercraft. We asked the guys who had boats, looked for them all night, swam to the places where the boats were. Only at 05:30 a.m. we managed to save the first people on Ozernaya Street in Oleshky. The house there was already flooded up to the roof.”
According to Yaroslav, volunteers from neighboring districts and Crimea volunteered to help locals in Oleshky, offering to bring humanitarian aid, but no one was allowed through the roadblocks.
“I called the local military administration and was told that they had no influence on the situation and that this was a matter for the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations simply forbade the volunteers to go through without a valid reason or explanation. In the end, we weren’t allowed to go through. People were with their boards, lifelines, and vests, but they just weren't allowed through. They got to the nearest body of water and swam to their homes, rescued a couple of families and went back.”
According to Yaroslav, one of the volunteers was detained by the regional prosecutor's office, and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Yaroslav claims that there are fatalities, but this information is hushed up. He also specified that in Oleshky only the center, where the administration, the hospital and the stadium are located, is not flooded.
Water continues to rise in Ukraine-controlled Kherson, according to reports from The Guardian journalist Dan Sabbagh, who arrived in the city on July 7. Local experts estimate that at its peak, the water was coming in at a rate of 4 centimeters (1.5 inches) per hour. It will recede more slowly, noted the journalist.
Volunteers are attempting to rescue animals as well as people. Leonid and Valentina Stoyanov, veterinarians and founders of a center for the rescue of wild animals in Odesa, have come to flooded Kherson to assist in the relief effort.
On June 6, employees at a zoo in the “Kazkova Dibrova” recreation center in Nova Kakhovka reported that the park was completely flooded and all the animals had died. The following day, some of the animals were confirmed to have survived through a lucky coincidence – parrots, flying squirrels, chinchillas, and guinea pigs turned out to be in the temporary care of an employee, which saved them their lives.