Kyiv/Moscow, June 8 (EFE).- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Thursday visited the flood-hit southern Kherson region in a previously unannounced trip to assess the damage from the collapse of the Kakhovka dam due to an alleged Russian explosion.
According to Russian estimates, the collapse of the strategic dam in occupied southern Ukraine claimed at least five lives.
Zelenskyy said the situation was “absolutely catastrophic,” in occupied Kherson, blaming Russia for the “ecocide” that has triggered an ecological and humanitarian disaster.
The president said he visited Kherson to assess the “consequences of the Russian act of terrorism at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.”
Zelenskyy said he discussed many critical issues with regional officials.
He noted the priority was to evacuate people from potential flood zones and provide life support in the flooded areas.
Videos and pictures published on social networks show Zelenskyy arriving at one of the flood-hit areas accompanied by his military escort.
The Russia-backed authorities said five of the seven people missing in the floods drowned.
“The two remaining people have been found, and efforts were on evacuate them,” Kremlin-appointed Nova Kakhovka mayor Vladimir Leontyev said on Russian state TV.
Alla Barkhatnova, the labor minister in the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine’s Kherson province, said at least 41 people were in hospitals “who have suffered hypothermia or some acute illnesses.”
The overflowing dam water has destroyed more than 14,000 houses in 15 towns.
Thousands were evacuated from flooded villages on either side of the Dnieper River that cuts through the Ukrainian and Russia-controlled parts of Kherson after the strategic Kakhovka dam burst on Tuesday.
Ukrainian rescuers Thursday said they evacuated more than 2,000 people from the submerged areas.
The authorities said the overflowing dam water had inundated some 600 square kilometers of the region after Russia allegedly bombed the reservoir to stop Ukrainian forces from advancing toward the Russia-occupied territory.
The Ukrainian military administration in Kherson said more than 30 percent of the flooded area is on the western side of the river, which is under Ukraine’s control. Russia controls the rest of the eastern bank.
The river, which has become one of the major fronts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, cuts through the province, dividing it into regions controlled by the neighbors at war.
The New Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station, which forms part of the destroyed dam, sits on the eastern bank and is under Russian control.
Ukraine claims that Russia blew up the dam with explosives from inside. Moscow has denied the allegation, blaming Ukrainian forces for the disaster.
Russian Tass news agency said the collapse of the hydroelectric plant had caused a “serious environmental” catastrophe.
“Farmlands along the Dnieper River have been washed away, and there is a risk that the North Crimean Canal will become shallow,” the news agency said.