Ukrainian Dam Breach: What Is Happening and What’s at Stake

Ukrainian Dam Breach: What Is Happening and What’s at Stake

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The dramatic dam breach The reservoir holding Ukraine’s largest reservoir released a torrent of water on Tuesday, raising fears of widespread damage and flooding in areas where tens of thousands of people live.

It is not clear what caused the breach at the Kakhovka dam, which was already damaged. Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the facility, while Russian officials blamed Ukrainian military strikes.

WHY IS THE DAM IMPORTANT? The 30-meter-high (98-foot-tall) dam and associated hydroelectric power station are located in Russian-controlled territory along the Dnieper River, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) east of the city of Kherson, a point height of Russia’s war in Ukraine. .
Along with the power station, the Soviet-era dam helps provide electricity, irrigation and drinking water to a wide swath of southern Ukraine, including the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula.

The reservoir created by the dam contains about 18 million cubic meters (4.8 billion gallons) of water, a volume nearly equal to that of the Great Salt Lake in the United States. These waters feed the cooling systems in the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plantwhere fighting has repeatedly raised fears of a catastrophic accident.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE DAM DURING THE WAR?

Russia has controlled the dam since the early days of the war. Last fall, the troops occupying it detonated explosives that damaged three gates, which help regulate water levels when properly operated. Signs of door damage were evident in late May.

Ukrainian officials and independent experts also say that Russian forces have failed to maintain it, either deliberately or through negligence.

Earlier this year, water levels in the reservoir were so low that many in Ukraine and beyond feared a collapse at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Since mid-February, the water level has steadily increasedaccording to data from Theia, a French geospatial analysis organization.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian authorities accused Russian forces of destroying the dam. Russia says military strikes in the disputed area damaged the facility.

WHO AND WHAT IS AT RISK?

As the flood waters rose, both the Russian and Ukrainian authorities ordered the evacuation of towns and villages, although neither side reported any fatalities. Authorities said some 22,000 people live in flood risk areas in Russian-controlled areas, while 16,000 live in the most critical area of ​​Ukrainian-controlled territory.

The Ministry of Energy of Ukraine also said that there is a risk of flooding at power facilities in the Kherson region. Almost 12,000 consumers in the city of Kherson have already lost power and there may be problems with the water supply.

Upstream, meanwhile, riverbanks spread out as water levels dropped. At the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest in Europe, the Ukrainian utility operator and the UN atomic energy agency said the situation was under control and there was no immediate security risk.

Ukrainian authorities warned of the possibility of an environmental disaster.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that “a global ecological disaster is taking place” and warned that “thousands of animals and ecosystems will be destroyed in the next few hours.”

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By JAMEY KEATEN

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