What's Happening 14:35 07 Jun 2023

Underwater: What is happening in flooded Kherson and how people and animals evacuate

On June 6, at 2:50 a.m., the Russians blew up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. Eighty settlements are at risk of complete or partial flooding. As some are under Russian occupation, as of June 7, no one knows the exact number of flooded villages.

Rubryka reports from the scene in flooded Kherson after Kakhovka dam destruction by Russia, June 7, 2023. Photo: Mykola Tymchenko/Rubryka

Rubryka reports from the scene in flooded Kherson after Kakhovka dam destruction by Russia, June 7, 2023. Photo: Mykola Tymchenko/Rubryka

In some areas of Kherson, Ukraine's southern city and river port, the water level reached 5 meters during the first day of the flood. Locals on motorboats patrol the flooded parts of the city, helping those who couldn't make it in time to get out and rescue animals. The Rubryka correspondent works at the scene of events.

Three Men in a Boat

Dmytro, Viktor, and Svitlana from Kherson have been helping with the evacuation of animals and people since the first hours of the flooding. Dmytro says that his house is in an area not threatened by water, but he just learned about the disaster, teamed up with a friend, and went to meet the arriving water.


Dmytro says that there are people who, despite the flooding, refuse to evacuate. It's not easy to convince them. Some have to be left in apartments where water is approaching.

"A woman lives here in a high-rise building on the fourth floor. She has ten dogs, ten cats, and something like that. She refuses to evacuate. We've already offered her different options,"  the volunteer says. "Well, at least we managed to take one woman out of the second section of the building. Now we'll drive more and see. We were passing the house, and the man was taken from the second floor from this window. They took him straight from the window. The man has just been transferred to dry land. Everything in his house is flooded."

Viktor, on whose boat the men evacuate the people of Kherson, says that the most challenging thing during these two days was to take out the blind couple. It is unknown how many more people with disabilities need help, but they have no one to turn to.

Meanwhile, as the media outlets report, the evacuation from the flooded villages in the Russia-occupied territory on the left bank of the river wasn't even started, and there is no mention of it. Apart from the declared state of emergency in Nova Kakhovka, the city nearest to the dam, there is no further reaction from the Russia-appointed occupying "authorities."

Rescued and lost animals

Animal rescuer and volunteer Svitlana joined the men to help evacuate the animals. The volunteers ask evacuees arriving at dry land who has the animals and at what addresses, and then they go to the rescue.

Dmytro tells the story of one woman who had dogs left in a private house:

"Four or five dogs, she said. There are two here, and three are left somewhere underwater. She says, you open the gate, go in. There are dogs in the house. But you see, there is only one roof left of the house, and that was it. Her house was completely flooded. I understand that those three dogs died. The other two should at least be saved. Because she, poor thing, is so upset."

The woman's two dogs escaped by climbing onto the roof. The volunteers managed to take them away, but it cost a lot of effort. The animals were frightened and circled the top, sometimes approaching their rescuers closer, sometimes running back.

Later, when the animals were returned to their owners, the woman spoke for a long time about those tailed animals that could not be saved.

"You won't forgive yourself"

New and new waves of evacuees are met by medics, soldiers, and animal volunteers on temporary land.

"We got up in the morning. I opened the window and saw that the water was already reaching my second floor. What was there to hope for? I had to leave the apartment. I know that now the water has reached the second floor," says Serhii. The man hugs his dog Mia, who is wet, scared, and looks mistrustfully at everyone approaching the owner.

A little further, another evacuee woman holds a cat in her arms and explains to the soldiers that the animal is not hers. She just saved the cat on the way to a safe place and does not know where to take it now.

"Now it will be yours. You won't forgive yourself if you leave it. You understand that yourself," the police officer replied.


In response, the woman smiles and nods. It seems that someone did not lose their home today, but rather found it.


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