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Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine Destroyed: What to Know

A critical dam on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine was split in half overnight Tuesday, posing significant risks to the safety of a nearby nuclear power plant and surrounding communities. It was not immediately clear who caused the damage.

Ukrainian officials on Tuesday began evacuating thousands of residents living downstream from the dam in the Kherson region as huge volumes of water gushed from the dam’s reservoir, with flooding expected to reach dangerous levels within hours.

Videos of the dam, in the town of Nova Kakhovka, reviewed by The New York Times do not reveal what caused the destruction. But they do show a significant amount of water flowing freely through the dam, indicating the severe damage.

Located near the front line of the war in the southern Kherson region, the barrier and nearby infrastructure have been damaged throughout the war. Last year, Russian forces took control of the dam and a nearby hydroelectric plant. Satellite imagery showed new damage to a bridge next to the dam days before Tuesday’s destruction.

Ukraine’s hydropower company, Ukrhydroenergo, said an explosion inside the engine room caused the destruction, which was under Russian control at the time. The power plant, it said, “cannot be restored.”

For months, Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of plotting to blow up the barrier. In October, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, said that Russia had rigged the dam with explosives. On Tuesday, Ukrainian military officials blamed Russian troops for the destruction.

Vladimir Leontiev, the Russian-appointed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, attributed the damage to shelling but denied that the dam had been destroyed, according to RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency. He did not say who was responsible for the shelling.

Communities along the waterway are at risk of being flooded and washed away. About 16,000 people are in the “critical zone” on the Ukrainian-controlled right bank of the Dnipro River, said Oleksandr Prokudin, the regional military administrator.

The damage threatens to disrupt vital services provided by the dam’s reservoir. It has provided water for drinking, agriculture and the cooling of the nearby Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Safety concerns about the nuclear facility have previously raised alarms.

The destruction of the dam also poses a significant risk to nearby ports and grain elevators, as well as the surrounding ecosystem, experts say.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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