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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Kherson, Where War Survivors Must Now Escape The Flood

The evacuation of residents from flood-affected localities continues after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam. Evacuees report that they have been bombarded by Russian missiles and fear the presence of mines in the water.

Photo of a woman after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovak dam.

A woman is seen during the aftermath of the destruction of the Nova Kakhovak dam.

Yevhen Buderatsky and Yevhen Rudenko and Yana Osadcha

KHERSON — “Finally, dry land...” The words were repeated by multiple evacuees forced to leave their homes over the past 48 hours in the wake of the explosion that destroyed the Nova Kakhovka dam.

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For the residents of Kherson and the surrounding area, the past 15 months have included a Russian occupation, Ukrainian liberation, and frequent artillery shelling. But on Tuesday, they woke up to a different kind of test of their survival skills.

The major breach of the dam flooded the settlements near the Dnipro river, forcing thousands to evacuate. The floodwaters have even submerged the low-lying districts of Kherson, the major city in the area, where levels have been known in the past to rise to the second or third floors of apartment buildings.

But now, the flooding is bound to be both more severe, and more widespread. In certain areas, the only mean of transport is by boat.

Within two days, more than 2,000 people, primarily from the severely affected Ostriv district, were evacuated to dry land.

Amphibious vehicles, police motor boats, ordinary rubber boats of volunteers and residents... Anything that can float is used to get people, their belongings, and pets away from flooded zones.

Water everywhere

Oleg and Serhii are some of the volunteers helping people evacuate. They have traveled to the flooded settlements by following the Dnipro, even as the left bank of the river is occupied by Russia, to save people from rooftops of submerged houses.

From the morning to the evening of June 7, they have ferried 16 residents from Kherson.

"It's quick to get to Kherson, but it's a long way back as we have to ride against the current, " says Oleg. “There is water everywhere now. Only the tops of trees and roofs are visible.”

Rescue teams after the destruction of the dam.


Noah's Ark

Marina Volodymyrivna Gavrilova is one of the evacuees from the hard-hit district of Kherson. The pensioner steps on dry land with her dachshund Virgie and a cigarette in her hand.

"By the way, have we won yet?,” she asks when she gets off the boat. “I’ve been without the radio for two days.”

I realized that I could be trapped forever.

Gavrilova lost her eyesight a few years ago. She found out about the Nova Kakhovka dam breach from the news. As she was walking Virgie outside on the evening of June 6, she felt that the water was already reaching her apartment.

"By the morning the water was already at my door," she says. "I realized that I could be trapped forever."

She refused to evacuate at first, shouting from her balcony on the fourth floor that she had ten cats besides her dog Virgie and that she could not leave them behind.

"Once they promised me they would come back with cat carriers, I agreed to leave," Gavrilova says.

According to the police, hundreds of animals have been evacuated, and the events along the Dnipro are compared to the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

Aftermath of the destruction of Nova Kakhovak dam.


Plans to return

Inna Moroz was evacuated to the non-flooded part of Kherson only on the morning of June 7.

"The rescuers give people 30 to 40 minutes to get ready. People bring their animals and get into the boats. But some choose to stay," says Inna.

The experience of sailing the Dnipro was frightening for her.

"We were sailing over a three-meter-high fence. We were also very afraid that there would be mines in the water," she says.

Despite losing her home to the flood, Inna Moroz is not planning on leaving Kherson.

"I'm not going anywhere. I have already spent 9 months in Poland, my children are there now, but I am here. Because who will rebuild Ostriv if not us?," she says, referring to the flooded Kherson district she was evacuated from. "Who will clean up the dirt when the water recedes?"

She is not the only one planning on staying in the city.

Kherson resident Olga Tsylinko helps rehabilitate children with disabilities. She lost her house to the flood but prefers to stay at a local rehabilitation center, to wait for families with children with disabilities to arrive.

“When we fled yesterday, the Russians were still shelling us. Today they also shelled Kherson, they do it every day," says Olga.

Thousands have been evacuated from the affected areas, but the scope of the disaster is still unclear.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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