A major dam was destroyed early Tuesday morning local time in Russian-occupied territory in southern Ukraine.
Over 15,000 residents downstream of the Kakhovka dam were being evacuated as officials warned that the rising water levels would hit a critical point in just a few hours.
Reuters reported that the 2-mile-long dam holds the same amount of water as the Great Salt Lake in Utah and was built nearly seven decades ago as part of a hydroelectric power plant on the Dnipro River.
Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up the dam while Russian officials suggested that it was a Ukrainian terrorist attack.
“Russian terrorists,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed on Twitter. “The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land. Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror. It’s only Ukraine’s victory that will return security. And this victory will come. The terrorists will not be able to stop Ukraine with water, missiles or anything else.”
Russian terrorists. The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land. Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror. It’s only… pic.twitter.com/ErBog1gRhH
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 6, 2023
The New York Times spoke with experts who said that the destruction caused by the dam’s demolition could be “catastrophic” for “communities, irrigation and transportation.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that it was monitoring the nearby Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which gets the water that it needs to stay cool from the reservoir.
The IAEA said that there was “no immediate nuclear safety risk at plant.”
The IAEA is aware of reports of damage at #Ukraine’s Kakhovka dam; IAEA experts at #Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant are closely monitoring the situation; no immediate nuclear safety risk at plant.#ZNPP
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency ⚛️ (@iaeaorg) June 6, 2023
The New York Times noted that while the six reactors at the nuclear facility are shut down, they still require water to keep the radioactive fuel inside the reactor cores cool.
Ivan Plachkov, a former minister of energy of Ukraine, told the Times: “It is a very dangerous situation.”