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.
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.
Aftermath of #NovaKakhovka dam destruction.Images taken by @CopernicusEU #Sentinel3 on June 5 and today.Data processed in @sentinel_hub #Kherson #Ukraine #UkraineRussiaWar️ #UkraineWar #war pic.twitter.com/vyj3IkRgJHJune 6, 2023
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.
#Ukraine #NovaKakhovka dam destroyed. One of the largest dammed lakes in Europe runs empty and floods various areas downstream….📸🛰#Sentinel3 2023.06.05 vs. 2023.06.06#Cherson #Dnepr #UkraineRussiaWar️ Footage: @CopernicusEU @sentinel_hub h/t @kosmi64833127 https://t.co/UgS72Z9L2p pic.twitter.com/8XYSWQ7SZCJune 6, 2023
NASA's MODIS/Terra satellite also watched the horrifying scene, showing floodwaters spilling over the river's banks into southern Ukraine.
Already visible consequences of #Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam break. Flooding already affecting many different places along the Dnipro River.Before/After situation, 5th and 6th of June 2023 MODIS/Terra - #UkraineRussiaWar #NovaKakhovka pic.twitter.com/HKNziNVs2BJune 6, 2023
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.