“Lucky to survive”: Ukrainian woman who lost everything in dam collapse

28 iun., 2023

The colossal volume of water unleashed by the catastrophic breach of Ukraine’s massive Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro river in the country’s southern Kherson region left thousands of residents fleeing for their lives to escape the deadly deluge. 

“After the explosion … water began to arrive on our street very quickly,” Svetlana Dedova, a 51-year-old resident from Kherson’s Korabel district, told Context.ro. “In a matter of minutes, our garden was submerged in water.”  

Like many residents afflicted by the torrents of water after an explosion caused the 30-metre-high dam failure in early June, Dedova grabbed what she could – clothes, important documents – as she scrambled to higher ground. She recalls floodwaters reaching as high as some rooftops.

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Photo credit: Svetlana Dedova

“Everyone began to quickly pack up (their belongings) and leave their homes,” she said. “An hour later, there were volunteers in our area helping to evacuate residents.”

The dam rupture adversely affected more than 3,500 buildings and 80 settlements, the majority of them located on the left bank of Ukraine’s Kherson region.  As of June 20, 21 people were reported dead and 31 are still missing, according to Ukraine’s interior ministry. Experts have also warned that the ecological fallout will likely be felt for years to come. 

While Ukraine blamed Russia for the incident and said Moscow had committed a war crime, Russia claimed Ukraine was behind the breach. According to the Geneva Convention, civilian infrastructure such as dams cannot be targeted, even if military bases are located there.

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Photo credit: Svetlana Dedova

The Institute for the Study of War, however, determined that Russia had “a greater and clearer interest in flooding the lower Dnipro despite the damage to their own prepared defensive positions and forces than the Ukrainians,” and said that Ukraine had “no material interest in blowing the dam.” 

“Russia may use the flooding to widen the Dnipro River and complicate Ukrainian counteroffensive attempts across the already-challenging water feature,” the ISW said.  

Even today, weeks after the dam collapsed floodwaters continue to recede and many people are still reeling from the disaster. Emergency service workers and volunteers are also still engaged in rescue efforts. 

“There is still an evacuation, a rescue mission going on here,” said Daria Litovchenko, a journalist and volunteer, two weeks after the incident. “The Russian military is firing at… residential quarters and evacuation points.”

Dedova and her husband, who were left with little more than some old furniture and a bed with no mattress, moved to central Kherson to stay in their son’s apartment, which was vacant since he fled with his family to Poland after Russia invaded. 

Meanwhile, representatives from the International Criminal Court together with the Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andrii Kostiny, have visited the Kherson region to try to record and determine the consequences of the Kakhovka Dam collapse. 

Dedova lived under Russian occupation in Kherson for eight months. “We thought it couldn’t get any worse,” she said, “We lost everything: our home, belongings, family history – yet at the same time, my husband and I consider ourselves lucky to have survived.”

Edited by Stephen McGrath
Photo credit: Facebook/ Ukraine.ua

Despre autor: Taisiia Bakharieva

Avatar of Taisiia Bakharieva
Taisiia Bakharieva este o jurnalistă din Kiev, Ucraina, care acum locuiește în România. Este în media din 1994 și a lucrat pentru agenția de presă RATAU, ziarele Kray și Vseukrainskie Vedomosti și ca redactor-șef al departamentului de cultură al ziarului și al site-ului FAKTI. Taisiia a intervievat numeroase personalități din Ucraina și este autor și prezentator al secțiunii de televiziune TV-FAKTI. După ce Rusia i-a invadat țara, Taisiia s-a mutat în România și s-a alăturat echipei CONTEXT. Munca ei se concentrează acum pe investigații privind crimele de război ale Rusiei în Ucraina și realizează interviuri cu victimele și martorii terorii rusești. Este de multă vreme membră a Uniunii Jurnaliștilor din Ucraina.

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