Rescuers in boats have saved hundreds of people from the roofs of flooded houses after the massive dam breach in southern Ukraine, volunteers and officials said on Thursday, but others were getting more desperate as they waited for help.
Friends and family posted frantic appeals in online chatrooms with names, photos and GPS locations of residents, including some children and many elderly people, who were still waiting to be picked up.
The coordinator of a volunteer group on the Telegram messaging app said the appeals were arriving continuously and getting more urgent than the day before because people were running out of food and drinking water.
Ukraine and Russia have both accused each other of blowing up the giant Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River, which burst in the early hours of Tuesday. On the Russian-controlled left bank of the river, Moscow-installed officials have ordered residents of several districts to evacuate.
Vladimir Saldo, the top Russian-installed official in the Kherson region, said midday Thursday that approximately 4,300 people had been evacuated, including 171 children and 42 people with disabilities. More than 14,000 homes have been flooded, emergency services said.
Another official, Andrei Alekseyenko, said the level of the Dnipro had risen to 12 meters in the worst-hit areas, Oleshky and Hola Prystan. He said 344 people had been saved by boat from roofs and upper floors.
In Telegram channels, some people sent grateful messages for successful rescues.
Olena Glazova, a Ukrainian woman from Oleshky who is now in Romania, said 10 of her neighbors had been saved from the attic of a house on Timchuk Street, including at least four people in their sixties and a child of 11. She did not know what would happen to them next.
Local people were organizing their own rescues, she said. "People have been grouping together and saving each other."
Meanwhile new appeals were still appearing in the chatrooms
"Evacuation required... Two or three elderly people are on the roof. Possibly with a cat and dog," one coordinator wrote. "At the moment there is no connection."
One man, Sergei, told Reuters the last time he spoke with his 83-year-old father-in-law in Oleshky was several days before the dam collapse.
"My father-in-law is in poor health and has no telephone," he said. "The latest information is that there was a lot of water in the street, as high as a person. Houses collapsed and went under water."
In the village of Korsunka, where houses were submerged up to their roofs, 26-year-old Vitaly told Reuters that homes had been indundated in the space of less than 15 minutes, leaving people with no time to flee. He said his own house collapsed under the torrent.
Ruslana, a woman who evacuated Kherson earlier this year to give birth to her son in Crimea, told Reuters she had had no contact for two days with her 72-year-old grandfather Nikolai in the village of Kardashynka. She called emergency services to report him missing but had heard no news.
"Most of the time I’m on the Internet, in groups, and there is no information," she said. "I'm waiting for him to call, or someone to call me, and say everything is fine. Then I will breathe easier."