Catastrophic Breach of Nova Kakhovka Dam Floods Lower Dnieper, Cuts Crimea Water Supplies; Ukraine Attacks in Bakhmut,

Catastrophic Breach of Nova Kakhovka Dam Floods Lower Dnieper, Cuts Crimea Water Supplies; Ukraine Attacks in Bakhmut, 1

[Dear patient readers: I wanted to get a fast post out while the news of the Kakhova Dam destruction was fresh. I plan to update and add the section promised in the headline on the other action in Ukraine. I intend to have that done by 5:00 AM, so please check back. I may also hoist helpful reader links and comments back into the post.]

Ukraine and Russia are pointing fingers at each other over the massive breach of the Nova Kakhova dam. Readers likely recall that the fear that Ukraine would blow up the dam led Russia to take the seriously-bad-from-an-optics perspective of pulling out of Kherson City, since its low-lying parts would be flooded and the resulting damage would make the already-difficult task of supplying troops close to impossible.

Note many commentators are jumping to the conclusion that the dam was destroyed (being critically damaged versus destroyed may seem too fine a point, but it can have implications for the severity of flooding). I am trying to get the input of construction/major earthworks expert bob from Syracuse, who provided very detailed commentary on the failure of the Oroville Dam in California.

Nevertheless, a seriously big time flood is underway:

If you look at the water, you can see it is rushing over the center but the dam was not taken out from side to side.

What matters in terms of flood levels is how many feet down the dam has been taken out, which no one not on site can readily guess well, at least now1. How much the water level rises below the dam depends on how low the lowest level of water restriction now is, and whether that gets eroded any further due to the action of the flood.

Also keep in mind the lower Dnieper is marshy, a flood plain near its mouth. So even if the water rise is not as bad as it could have been, it will still damage a lot of terrain.

The New York Times has some intel on flooding (note each snippet as a separate source ffrom the Times’ staff which I omitted to reduce visual clutter):

The local Ukrainian military administration said that water downstream of the dam will reach critical levels in five hours, or around noon local time.

The water level in the Kakhovka Reservoir is dropping at a rate of about 15 centimeters, or 6 inches, per hour, the military administration in Nikopol, a Ukrainian-controlled city on the shore of the reservoir, said in a statement.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior said local authorities in 10 towns and villages and in the city of Kherson were told to prepare to evacuate residents. Some low-lying neighborhoods in Kherson city are at risk but not the entire city.

Evacuations have started. From CNN:

In a video statement posted on Telegram, Oleksandr Prokudin, the Ukraine-appointed head of the Kherson region military administration, said the water “will reach critical level in five hours.”…

Prokudin said evacuations in the “area of danger” around the dam had started and asked citizens to “collect your documents and most needed belongings and wait for evacuation buses.”

“I ask you to do everything you can to save your life. Leave the dangerous areas immediately,” he added.

Units of Ukraine’s National Police and the state emergency service of the Kherson region have been put on alert to warn and evacuate civilians from potential flood zones, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said.

Also note Twitter is full of the charge that this is a war crime….largely blaming Russia. This is on its face nonsensical. What is damaged is Kherson, territory that Russia says is now its own, even if it controls only part now, and water supplies to Crimea. The flooding is also taking out defensive fortifications and mines planted by Russia.

You don’t salt land in your own territory, and Russia has taken the legal steps under its law laying claim to all of Kherson.

Reuters tries to stand a bit above the fray:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy blamed Russia for the damage.

“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,” Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukraine’s military said that Russian forces blew up the dam.

Russian-installed officials in Kherson said Ukraine struck the dam at 2300 GMT several times, destroying the hydraulic valves of the hydroelectric power station but said the dam was not totally destroyed.

“We ask all residents of coastal settlements to be ready for evacuation,” the Russian-controlled region said. “Emergency and special services of the region are in full readiness and will provide all necessary assistance.”

The Washington Post is also not assigning blame, perhaps a signal that the US does not want NATO dragged in (a least unless and until Ukraine can provide receipts. Its headline is Ukraine live briefing: Major Ukrainian dam damaged, threatening southern areas with flooding. First para:

A major dam in southern Ukraine has been damaged, allowing large amounts of water to flow out of a reservoir and prompting officials to order residents of surrounding areas to evacuate. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Both Russia and Ukraine have previously accused each other of plotting to destroy the dam, without providing evidence.

Some early confirmation of the Ukraine skeptics’ case:

This act looks like a Ukraine twofer:

1. A statement that if Ukraine has no good prospect of retaking territory now under Russian control, it would rather destroy it than let Russia have it

2. An effort to get NATO to commit troops

There has also been noise about risk to the Zaporzhizhia power plant. Some Twitterati say this is not an issue due to the degree to which the plant has been mothballed:

Ukraine sources seem to agree:

* * *


1 People on site might have good proxies as to how far down the cement has been obliterated relative to the pre-strike water level, like the speed of the water flow.

The dam looks to have been blown up, but there’s even a dispute as to how. Ukraine is claiming Russia mined it underwater long ago and blew it now.

Some pointed out that the water behind the dam was at record levels and thus could have been deliberate negligence:

CNN did point out at the end of its story:

In November, the dam was damaged in shelling and satellite images from Maxar Technologies obtained by CNN showed water flowing out of three sluice gates at the dam.

But later:

So we have contradictory video evidence.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email