06/06/2023
The search and rescue operations were completed

Russia caused a large-scale humanitarian and environmental disaster by blowing up the Kakhovka HPP dam

An aerial view of the flooded city of Kherson. June 6, 2023. By Kostiantyn Liberov & Vlada Liberova

The Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Kherson region was built in the 1950s. It had one of the six large reservoirs in the Dnipro cascade, with the ability to hold about 18 million cubic meters of water. On June 6, 2023, Russia blew up the critical dam – and now this water is rushing downstream, flooding settlements, leaving thousands of Ukrainians without homes, and causing long-lasting damage to the global ecosystem. 

The city of Nova Kakhovka with the power plant was occupied by Russian troops in the first days of the full-scale invasion in 2022, along with other critical facilities. By the middle of the fall, as the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south was gaining momentum, the risk of catastrophe became apparent. On October 10, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the dam and aggregates of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant (Kakhovka HPP) were mined by Russia.

On June 6, 2023, the Russians blew up a critical dam near the city of Kherson.

June 6-8

As of the morning of June 8, about 600 square kilometers of the Kherson region have been flooded, reported Oleksandr Prokudin, Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration. 32% of those territories are on the right bank of the Dnipro River, and 68% are on the left bank – this part of the region is still temporarily occupied by Russian troops.

Humanitarian situation. On the right bank of the Dnipro River, about 20 settlements and 2,629 houses have been flooded. On June 7, 2023, the National Police of Ukraine reported about three missing people in flooded areas of Kherson. As of the morning of June 8, about 1,995 people have been evacuated, including 103 children, the State Emergency Service reports. 

The evacuation is still ongoing, but it does not stop Russian troops from shelling civilians. On June 8, nine people were injured by their attack.

An elderly woman with her dogs in the flooded house in Kherson. This city was affected after Russia blew up the dam of the Kakhovka HPP. June 6, 2023.
By Yevhenii Maloletka

On the left bank of the Dnipro River, there are settlements that have been completely submerged by water. In particular, the temporarily occupied city of Oleshky has been flooded by 90%. 30 people were brought to the hospital with hypothermia there. There have been civilian casualties, but the exact number cannot be determined at the moment, reported Tetiana Hasanenko, Head of the Oleshky City Military Administration.

According to Dmytro Lubinets, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region, Russian invaders have not been evacuating people from the flooded areas and don’t let volunteers help those in need.

On June 8, Ukraine and the UN agreed on the following: UN will immediately form groups for providing humanitarian aid and evacuating people from the left bank of the Dnipro River, on the condition that Russia will provide access and security guarantees. As of the evening of June 8, the UN is waiting for such guarantees from Russia, as well as for access to the temporarily occupied territories affected by the flooding.

Environmental damage. The destruction of the dam and the flooding caused problems with the drinking water in the Kherson region and in the flooded parts of the Zaporizhzhia region. Wells and open water bodies in flooded areas may contain chemicals, and pathogens of infectious diseases from cemeteries, sewage treatment plants, and landfills. In addition, more than 150 tons of engine oil leaked into the Dnipro.

The ecosystems in the south of Ukraine will sustain a lot of long-lasting damage due to this terror attack. According to the State Forestry Agency of Ukraine, approximately 55,000 hectares of forests in the Kherson region have been flooded, and the local wildlife is drowning.

Domestic animals are also suffering from the flood: many are trying to rescue dogs, cats, and others from the water. Approximately 300 animals have died in the Novokakhovka Zoo “Kazkova Dibrova”, though some birds escaped, and some smaller animals, that were staying in the keeper’s home, survived. 

A dog was just saved by rescuers.
Photo: Danylo Pavlov for The Ukrainians

The Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine predicts the flooding of approximately 10 thousand hectares of agricultural land on the right bank and several times more on the left bank of the Kherson region. A man-made disaster will disrupt the water supply of 31 irrigation systems of the fields in the Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions. Along with the damage, caused to the agricultural facilities, it will further damage the production of Ukrainian crops.

Due to the destruction of the water reservoir, the North Crimean Canal will also be left without its water source, and the supply of water to the temporarily occupied Crimea will become physically impossible in the near future. 

Moreover, due to the significant scale of the flooding, the Kinburn Spit in the South of Ukraine has temporarily become an island. The amount of freshwater dumped rapidly into the Black Sea will cause further environmental damage, and the streams will bring debris and even mines to the shores.

The disaster will also negatively impact the Ukrainian fishing industry. As the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir is dropping, the death of fish, both young and adults, has been recorded. According to preliminary estimates, the industry will be experiencing losses of 10,5 billion hryvnias. 

The power plant. The Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant was fully destroyed, and can not be restored, reports Ukrhydroenergo (Ukraine’s hydropower generating company). The estimated cost of building a new HPP is around $1 billion: it would involve not only installing new hydro units but also restoring the integrity of a huge dam.

Update from June 9

Humanitarian situation. As of June 9, on the right bank of the Kherson region, the average water level in the flooded areas is 5,38 meters. In Kherson – 5,35 meters. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, in the Kherson region, 48 settlements were flooded, of which 14 are in temporarily occupied territories.

4 people died due to the flooding. Another 11 were injured by Russian shellings during evacuation measures. 13 citizens are considered missing. 2,412 people were evacuated.

The evacuation of 84-year-old Maria Leontiivna from the flooded area in the Kherson region.
Photo: the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine

In the Mykolaiv region, 23 settlements were flooded, 1 person was killed. 825 people were evacuated.

Environmental damage. The Odesa region is affected: after the explosion at the Kakhovka HPP, a large amount of garbage and debris got into the waters of the Black Sea from the Dnipro River. Currently, mines and unused ammunition, debris from buildings and trees are floating in the water near the coast of the Odesa region, reports Oleh Kiper, Head of the Odesa Regional Military Administration.

In addition, almost all the islands in the territory of the Nyzhnodniprovskyi National Park in Kherson were submerged by water. As a result of the flooding, local flora and fauna were affected, including more than 1,016 species of plants and animals like wild boar, doe, roe deer, and others.

Ukrainian agriculture will sustain significant losses. According to preliminary estimates, more than 100,000 tons of crops were lost on the right bank of the Kherson region due to the flooding.

Zaporizhzhia NPP. Аt the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, there is no immediate threat. According to the “Energoatom”, the water level in the cooling pond of the Zaporizhzhia NPP is currently about 16,6 m, which is enough to meet the facility’s needs. The Kakhovka HPP is the main water reservoir for the Zaporizhzhia NPP, which caused concern due to its destruction and lowering of the water level.

Update from June 10-11

Humanitarian situation. The water level is receding in the Kherson region. Oleksandr Prokudin, Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, reported that the water level went down by 31 centimeters from the evening of June 9 to the morning of June 10. The average level of flooding in the region is currently 4,72 meters.

On the right bank, 35 settlements were flooded with 3,763 houses. In total, 2,588 people were evacuated from the affected area. Russian forces continued to shell the partially flooded city of Kherson: in the morning of June 10, two volunteers were injured by the artillery strike.

On the left bank, Russian forces only allow people with Russian passports to evacuate from the flooded settlements, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports.

As of June 10, 31 settlements were also flooded in the Mykolaiv region. 936 people were evacuated, including 167 children. One person died.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, a total of 27 people are considered missing as a result of the flooding.

On June 11, 112 people were evacuated from the temporarily occupied left bank of the Kherson region, including 54 women and 7 children, informed Oleksandr Prokudin, Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration. Russian forces once again shelled Ukrainian civilians during evacuation in the temporarily occupied settlements on the left bank. The shelling killed three people and injured at least 23.

Russians shelled an evacuation boat in the Kherson region.
Photo: National Police of Ukraine

Environmental damage. The estimated amount of environmental damage caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP dam has already reached over 55 billion hryvnias.

As of June 10, 62% of the volume of the Kakhovka reservoir – 12,24 cubic kilometers of water, has leaked out. The water level in the reservoir dropped to 10,55 meters. As a result, 30% of the nature reserve fund in the Kherson region is at risk of disappearing.

At the same time, approximately 1,200 hectares of the Kinburn Peninsula are already flooded, reported Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine.

The salinity of the Black Sea has been decreasing due to a large amount of freshwater that got into it after the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP. Currently, it is almost three times lower than normal near the city of Odesa, stated the State Environmental Inspectorate of Ukraine.

In the Dnipropetrovsk region, more than 89,000 residents in 26 settlements are without water supply.

Update from June 12

Humanitarian situation. As of June 12, the water level in the Kherson region went down to 3,29 meters, according to Oleksandr Prokudin, Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration. 46 settlements in the region remain flooded, 32 on the right bank and 14 on the left bank.

The Zhdanivskyi beach in Zaporizhzhia. Due to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP, the water in the Dnipro River in this area has dropped down to a catastrophic level.
By Andrii Dubchak

Over six days, 2,743 people have been evacuated from the flooded territories, including 228 children and 77 persons with impaired mobility. 8 people were killed, and 42 individuals, including seven children, are considered missing.

In the Mykolaiv region, 31 settlements were flooded, but now the water level also continues to go down. A total of 982 people were evacuated, including 167 children. Two people in the region were killed by the flooding caused by Russia’s terror attack on the dam.

Environmental damage. Since the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP, over 72% or 14,395 cubic kilometers of water have already been lost from the reservoir. In particular, as of the evening of June 11, the water level in the reservoir near Nikopol in the Dnipropetrovsk region was approximately 9,04 meters.

In the Dnipropetrovsk region, nearly 165,000 residents in 32 settlements remain without a water supply.

Update from June 13

Humanitarian situation. In Kherson region, the water level went down to 2,7 meters, stated Oleksandr Prokudin, Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration. According to Prokidun, 10 people have died due to the Kakhovka HPP explosion, 20 more have been injured, and 42 people are missing.

On the right bank, 31 settlement remain flooded, and 2,757 people have been rescued in total. On the left bank, 17 temporarily occupied settlements have been flooded. 133 people have been rescued from there by Ukrainians. However, the UN mission still waits for guarantees from Russia to go to temporarily occupied part of the region that suffered from the flooding.

At the same time, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have started providing humanitarian aid to the affected population on the right bank of Kherson region. In addition, 12 countries have sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine to deal with the aftermath of the disaster caused by Russia.

Environmental damage. The irrigation problem will become the biggest one in agriculture in the south of Ukraine as the Kakhovka Canal supplied water to more than half a million hectares of land. It will take 3-5-7 years to restore the irrigation, and in that time a million and a half hectares will not be used to their full potential, stated Mykola Solskyi, the Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine.

In the Kherson region, 94% of irrigation system depended on the Kakhivka reservoir, in the Zaporizhzhia region – 74%, and in the Dnipropetrovsk region – 30%. The damage to those system amounts to 150-160 billion hryvnias.

The Velykyi Luh National Park in Zaporizhzhia region and Kamianska Sich National Park in Kherson region have been draining because the destruction of the Khahovka HPP dam. The wetlands of the Great and Little Kuchuhury Archipelago are under threat: 54 species of fish may disappear from this territory of the archipelago, and 156 species of birds living on the islands will also be negatively affected.

Photo: Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources

Both in the flooded areas and in the settlements of the coast off the Black Sea, authorities warn about the increased mine danger. Mines and other explosives have been washed off downstream and into the sea. They pose a significant danger: cleaning up of the coast must be caries out by the experts.

Update from June 14-16

Humanitarian situation. The water level keeps dropping down in the settlements of the Kherson region. As of the morning of June 14, the average water level is 2,13 meters, reported the Kherson Regional Military Administration. 

In particular, the water has receded from the villages of Zapovit, Bobrovyi Kut, and Burhunka in the Kherson region. At the same time, 28 settlements (3,096 houses) on the right bank of the Dnipro River and 17 settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region remain flooded, stated the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

A dog in a flooded bus in Kherson.
Photo: Inna Varenytsia / REUTERS

As of June 15, the average water level in the Kherson region is 1,93 meters. 20 settlements (1,807 houses) on the right bank of the Dnipro River and 17 settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region remain flooded. In the Mykolaiv region, 109 households are currently submerged by water. Due to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP, some settlements in the Nikopol district of the Dnipropetrovsk region remain without a central water supply.

As of June 16, the water level in the Dnipro River in Kherson is decreasing by 2-5 centimeters per hour and is currently about 1,67 meters. 17 settlements (1,649 houses) on the right bank of the Dnipro River and 17 settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region remain flooded.

Environmental damage. Due to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP, 149 tritons died in the National Nature Park “Tuzlivski Lymany”, reported the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine. These animals are listed in the Red Book of Ukraine. After the flooding, with the waters of the Dnipro River, tritons were carried to the coast of the Black Sea. They did not survive in salt water.

Photo: Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources

Furthermore, according to the Minister of Health of Ukraine, Viktor Liashko, the water contamination in the Dnipro River currently exceeds the norm by 28,000 times. The river is unsuitable for swimming.

In Odesa Bay, due to the flooding, the water has turned green and is filled with a complex of potentially toxic cyanobacteria, informed the representatives of the Institute of Marine Biology of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of Ukraine.

Photo: Olha Halaiko and Helena Sokolovskaya / Ukrainian Scientific Center of Ecology of the Sea

Cultural damage. After the explosion at the Kakhovka HPP, the House-museum named of Polina Raiko in the temporarily occupied Oleshky in the Kherson region was affected, informed Semen Khramtsov, Project Manager of the Polina Raiko Charitable Foundation. Due to the flooding, most of the inner walls collapsed, and the unique frescos inside were damaged.

Update from June 17-18

Humanitarian situation. As of June 17, a gradual decrease in the water level is observed in Kherson. The average water level is 1,09 meters, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. Eleven settlements (1,509 houses) on the right bank of the Dnipro River and seventeen settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region remain flooded.

In the Mykolaiv region, 35 buildings are still submerged by water.

As of June 18, five settlements (843 houses) on the right bank of the Dnipro River and seventeen settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region remain flooded.

An aerial view of the Kakhovka HPP.
Photo: Denys Kazanskyi

Due to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP, seventeen people have died. Thirteen drowned, while Russian shellings killed another four during the evacuation from the affected areas. Thirty-one individuals have been reported missing, informed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

In particular, there are civilian victims in the temporarily occupied city of Hola Prystan in the Kherson region. The exact number of casualties in the city is currently unknown. The bodies of the dead victims continue to be found as the water recedes.

Moreover, according to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Denise Brown, Russia has declined the UN request to access the temporarily occupied districts of the left bank of the Kherson region, which were flooded.

Environmental damage. After the dam’s destruction, a large amount of freshwater has entered the Black Sea. As a result, the salinity of the Black Sea near the coast of Odesa has decreased by more than half. On June 17, the Odesa City Council decided to continue the ban on visiting all city’s beaches due to poor water quality, which could be dangerous to human health.

Update from June 19-21

Humanitarian situation. 

– June 19: the water level in the Kherson region is 0,48 meters.
– June 20: the water level in the Kherson region is 0,31 meters.
– June 21: the water level in the Kherson region is 0,25 meters. Three settlements (595 houses) on the right bank of the Dnipro River and 17 settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region remain flooded.

In the Mykolaiv region, households in four settlements of the Bashtanskyi district remain partially flooded on June 20.

As of June 20, 21 people have died. 5 of them were killed by Russian shellings during the evacuation from affected areas, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. Another 28 people were injured, including 16 rescuers. 109 individuals are reported missing.

Environmental damage. Due to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP, a large amount of oil and fuel entered the Dnipro River. Currently, oil and fuel stains weighing at least 150 tons are drifting along Dnipro, which can have a harmful impact on its ecosystem, reported Andrii Yermak, Head of the Presidential Office.

A man and his three grandchildren release small fish into the tributary of the Dnipro. People didn’t let the fish die after the water receded in the village of Balabyne, the Zaporizhzhia region.
Photo: David Guttenfelder

Update from June 22-27

Humanitarian situation.

– June 22: the water level in the Kherson region is 0,15 meters.
– June 27: the water level in Dnipro in the Kherson region returned to its usual course. Two settlements (2 houses) on the right bank of the Dnipro River and 17 settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region remain flooded.

In particular, in the temporarily occupied Hola Prystan, the eastern and central parts of the city remain flooded, with water levels reaching up to 1 meter. There is no electricity, water, and gas supply, reported Hola Prystan City Military Administration.

In the Mykolaiv region, 746,6 hectares of agricultural land in the Bashtanskyi district remain flooded as of June 24.

Due to the explosion at the Kakhovka HPP and the deterioration of the sanitary and epidemiological situation, outbreaks of viral hepatitis A have been recorded in some settlements in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region, reported the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Russian occupiers have been ignoring the spread of the disease, taking no measures to stabilize the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the region.

Environmental damage. After the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP, some industrial substances entered the water in the Kherson region. In particular, petroleum products have been found in two rivers of the region (Koshova and Virovchyna), which can have a negative impact on the ecosystems.

Update from June 28-July 3

Humanitarian situation. As of July 3, one settlement (one house) on the right bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region remains flooded, reported the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

At the same time, in the temporarily occupied Hola Prystan, on the left bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region, the eastern and central parts of the city remain flooded, with water levels reaching up to 0,7 meters. There is no water and gas supply in the local residential buildings, and the power supply in the city is unstable, reported Hola Prystan City Military Administration.

Environmental damage. Due to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP dam, the Dnipro River continues to reduce in size. In particular, the river has shallowed to critical levels in the area of the Dniprovska HPP, informed Andrii Yermak, Head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine.

Photo: Andrii Yermak, Head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine

Update from July 6

Cultural damage. After the explosion at the Kakhovka HPP, about 148 archaeological monuments were damaged on the right bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region due to the flooding, reported Oleksandr Tkachenko, Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.

Update from July 20

Humanitarian situation. As of July 20, the total number of victims who died due to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP dam is 31 people (29 in the Kherson region and 2 in the Mykolaiv region), informed Ihor Klymenko, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

Update from August 30

The main liquidation stage of the aftermath of the Kakhovka HPP dam blast has been completed. The headquarters for liquidating an emergency’s consequences has finished its work. The emergency services will now continue to monitor the situation in their areas of responsibility.

Humanitarian situation. After Russia blew up the Kakhovka HPP dam on June 6, 2023, about 180 settlements in the Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, and Mykolaiv regions, with a population of almost 900,000 people, entered the emergency zone. Since then, about 148,000 tons of drinking and technical water have been delivered to the affected areas for the population’s needs and to prevent infectious disease outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provided 237,000 tablets to disinfect drinking water for the population, water supply companies, and critical infrastructure facilities in the emergency zone. As Ihor Kuzin, Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine, reported, no cholera outbreak among the population was detected in the areas affected by flooding.

Environmental damage. Monitoring sea and river waters in the flooding area will also continue. Currently, the level of water pollution has decreased to 10% in some monitoring points.

Update from October 17

The amount of damage after Russia blew up the Kakhovka HPP dam is estimated at more than $11 billion, according to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment report jointly prepared by the Ukrainian government and the United Nations. The worst damage was caused to infrastructure and assets in the energy and housing sectors.

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