Satellites watch floods ravage Ukraine following dam collapse (photos)

a raging river rushes through a hole in a dam
An image taken by a Planet SkySat satellite shows water spilling over the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on June 6, 2023.. (Image credit: Planet)

Satellites watched as floodwaters ravaged southern Ukraine following the mysterious collapse of a major dam on Tuesday (June 6).

Floodwaters have been threatening crops and villages throughout war-torn Ukraine, prompting evacuations and what U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called a "monumental humanitarian, economic and ecological catastrophe," according to the Associated Press. Russia and Ukraine are accusing each other of destroying the dam in what both are calling a "terrorist act." 

Satellites orbiting overhead caught shocking views of the destruction on Tuesday, revealing the extent of the flooding and the damage to the Kakhovka dam along the Dnipro River. 

Related: Russia's war on Ukraine has caused lasting damage to international spaceflight cooperation

A Planet SkySat satellite shows water spilling over the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (Image credit: Planet)

A wide range of both private and government-owned satellites watched the scene from Earth orbit, helping to document the floodwaters that have already caused the evacuation of over 1,000 people, according to Ukrainian officials

The European Union's Sentinel 3 satellite, part of its Earth-observing Copernicus program, watched the spread of floodwaters between June 5 and 6.

See more

A comparison of satellite imagery from Monday (June 5) and Tuesday shows the Dnipro River swelling into the surrounding countryside following the dam's collapse.

See more

NASA's MODIS/Terra satellite also watched the horrifying scene, showing floodwaters spilling over the river's banks into southern Ukraine.

See more

The destruction of the dam comes at a crucial moment in the ongoing war following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is currently conducting a major counteroffensive to retake territory captured by Russia. The Kakhovka dam was used as a crossing for Ukrainian forces operating in the area, and its destruction could complicate Ukraine's efforts to operate in the area.

The Associated Press reported that the floodwaters could wash mines away into unknown areas, potentially creating a humanitarian disaster for civilians in the region.

The dam is also used to supply cooling waters for the beleaguered Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant upstream. It's unknown how the dam collapse could affect the safety of the plant. 

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Brett Tingley
Managing Editor,

Brett is curious about emerging aerospace technologies, alternative launch concepts, military space developments and uncrewed aircraft systems. Brett's work has appeared on Scientific American, The War Zone, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett enjoys skywatching throughout the dark skies of the Appalachian mountains.