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‘In a couple more hours we’ll be under water’ People who live near Nova Kakhovka tell Meduza what’s happening in the area now
Early in the morning on June 6, the dam at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, in the Russian-annexed part of the Kherson region, was destroyed. The Ukrainian authorities say the Russian military blew up the dam. The Kremlin calls it “deliberate sabotage by Kyiv.” Meanwhile, the water level in the Dnipro River is rising, and several towns are already under water. Meduza spoke with residents of the cities and towns located near the hydropower plant, and with others who have relatives in the area. Here’s what’s going on.
Kherson, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Nova Kakhovka
I live 90 kilometers from the dam. I didn’t hear an explosion at all — I saw the whole scene on the news. I went straight to the bank of Dnipro — it’s less than a kilometer from Kherson, practically in the city. When I got there, the water level was already up a meter [around three feet]. Now [10:16 a.m. local time, June 6] it’s up by about two meters.
There were about 100 of us on the bank, just standing and watching the detritus float down the river. There was a lot of it, mixed in with reeds, trees, gasoline, oil, mud, and boats. And a lot of animals, too: some ducks, some dead fish. Just now, a turtle swam by, and two muskrats just before it.
The river reeks of gasoline — and this hurts. We’ve always had a clean river. Oh look, there goes a military trunk! I don’t know, maybe it’s got ammunition in it. We just fished out a package of Russian tea — seems like it’s from the bank where their military is stationed. A lot of garbage is coming down the river now, and there’s a very strong current — three times stronger than usual.
The current only reaches as far as Kherson. It’s coming towards us now. In the city of Ostrov, one or two streets of mostly private homes are flooded. Everyone is being evacuated from there now; all the emergency services are at work. An evacuation train is scheduled for midday.
Apart from Ostrov, some low-lying streets are also flooded. We went to one of them — and there’s already water flowing through. We parked our car, and within 20 minutes it was sitting in water. We helped evacuate people.
[Kherson] won’t be fully evacuated — there’s no need for that. We’ve already been studying the [potential flood] issue for some time, so we know that only some of the streets are going to flood. But on the other bank, controlled by the Russian Federation, there will be a lot more flooding. Several settlements will go under completely. In Nova Kakhovka, there’s already standing water downtown, and swans are swimming in it.
There are no shortages of drinking water yet. But we have a pump right next to the river, and if the water rises another 3–4 meters [10–13 feet] we’ll have a problem because our water will be turned off. They’ve already told us about it, so now everyone is collecting water. That won’t save us though.
And now, there’s smoke on the other side [of the Dnipro]. Russian equipment is burning, there are two combustion areas, not from the flood but from shelling — something’s always on fire over there. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Previously lived in Oleshky, a city 70 kilometers (44 miles) from Nova Kakhovka. The area has been occupied by the Russian military since mid-April 2022.
Some guys I know woke me up at 4 a.m. this morning to tell me what’s up. So I’ve been trying to monitor social media and to tell others what’s happening and where, at any given moment. I’m from that city myself; I have four young nephews there now, and a cousin with his wife, and my grandmother. I can’t get in touch with anyone.
[My brother, who lives in Oleshky] didn’t even know [what happened] when I woke him up. I explained the situation and sent him a video. He had to make sure it was true and only then started to take measures. He was online around 8 a.m., when getting the kids and the car ready to go to Kostohryzove, in the Crimean direction. They wanted to take the kids there at least — but I haven’t heard any news from them since.
The civilians didn’t see it coming, of course. [The Russian] military knew, though, I’m 100 percent certain. [A few months ago, they] started going from house to house. My grandmother was getting a Russian pension but didn’t want to change her passport. They came to her place and said: if you want this money, take a Russian citizenship. My grandmother refused, obviously, and they left. And then the payments stopped.
Previously lived in Oleshky
I can tell you that in a couple more hours Oleshky will be completely under water. All of the highest points in the city are already being flooded, they say. Most people didn’t expect the Russians would blow up the hydropower plant. No one even thought about it, people were just trying to get by.
I heard about it at 5 a.m., when a friend called from Nova Kakhovka and told me, “it’s really bad over here.” At the moment, half of the village and half of downtown are underwater, and those down-and-outs aren’t letting people out, they’ve closed the roads. They’re saying, “you’re all gonna die here.”
Used to live in the village of Krynky (Oleshky district), 24 kilometers (about 15 miles) from Nova Kakhovka. Marina is now in Nikopol, in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
In Krynky, we had our own house, beehives, and a garden. It’s all under water. Around 5 a.m., my husband called and said the water was up to his waist. After 9 a.m., he said that it was up to the windows — the house is tall, the windows are a couple meters [around 6 feet] from the ground. He was calling from a boat he was sitting in, together with our neighbor.
We have no idea how he’s going to get out. I don’t know where to turn for help, because he’s on the eastern bank, which is occupied. No one had expected this, and I don’t think anyone was prepared.
There was a general store there, but I don’t know if it’s open now. Some people stocked up on drinking water, but there’s no electricity and the water comes from the wells. People who have a generator and fuel managed to stock up.
I don’t know how many people are there, but there were some. I know that [the Russian military] took away people’s boats. The local group chats say that [during the occupation, before the flood] the orcs kicked people out of two-story homes and took them for themselves.
I’m in touch with my husband, but not all the time. The connection gets really bad. Sometimes I don’t hear anything at all. Others have tried to go to the village, but they weren’t allowed near Nova Kakhovka. They said there’s a lot of water there.
Hola Prystan, a city about 90 kilometers (or 55 miles) from Nova Kakhovka. The city has been under occupation since March 2022.
I woke up in the morning to a call from my sister in Poland. She told me everything, and then I went online and learned more details about the emergency. Basically, people are panicked. They can’t get in touch with relatives, it’s impossible to reach anyone.
Lots of people plan to evacuate — they’ve had to take all their food and electrical appliances up to the roof, or even somewhere higher. We’re also packing our bags in case of an emergency.
There is an official evacuation underway, Russian emergency services are all working. We live on the edge of town and we’re not planning to evacuate just yet. If anything happens, we’ll stay with relatives [further away from the flood]. It’s still dry here, and it would take 1 1/2–2 hours [for the water to get here]. There’s now water in the city center, and it keeps on coming.
We have five dogs, but if we evacuate, it’ll have to be the whole family in one car. I can’t take all the dogs. It’s such a pity. I’m looking for someone to take them.
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