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Waters continue to swell as flooded southern Ukraine copes with day after dam breach

KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — Residents of southern Ukraine braced for a second day of swelling floodwaters on Wednesday as authorities warned that a Dnieper River dam breach would continue to unleash pent-up waters from a giant reservoir.

Officials said waters were expected to rise further following Tuesday’s dramatic rupture of the Kakhovka dam about 70 kilometers (44 miles) to the east of the city of Kherson, but were slowing.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the dam and adjoining hydroelectric power station, which sits in an area Moscow has controlled for more than a year. Russian officials blamed Ukrainian bombardment in the contested area, where the river separates the two sides.

Residents sloshed through knee-deep waters in their inundated homes as videos posted on social media showed rescue workers carrying people to safety and an aerial video of waters filling the streets of Russian-controlled Nova Kakhovska on the eastern side of the river.

In Ukrainian-controlled areas on the western side, Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of Kherson Regional Military administration, said in a video that water levels were expected to rise by another meter (about 3 feet) over the next 20 hours.

“The intensity of floods is slightly decreasing; however, due to the significant destruction of the dam, the water will keep coming,” he said.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense, which has regularly issued updates about the war, said the Kakhovka reservoir was at “record high” water levels before the breach. While the dam wasn’t entirely washed away, the ministry warned that its structure “is likely to deteriorate further over the next few days, causing additional flooding.”

Together with the power station, the dam helps provide electricity, irrigation and drinking water to a wide swath of southern Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

Government and U.N. officials have warned of a human and ecological disaster whose repercussions will take days to assess and far longer to recover from.

The dam break, which both sides long feared, added a new dimension to Russia’s war, now in its 16th month. Ukrainian forces were widely seen to be moving forward with a long-anticipated counteroffensive in patches along more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of front line in the east and south.

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Associates Press reporter Illia Novikov in Kyiv contributed to this report.

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