The Kakhovka dam was blown up early on Tuesday morning, the Reuters news agency reported.
The South command of Ukraine's Armed Forces said on its Facebook page: "The Kakhovka was blown up by the Russian occupying forces."
"The scale of the destruction, the speed and volumes of water, and the likely areas of inundation are being clarified," it added.
Unverified videos on social media showed a series of intense explosions around the Kakhovka dam, with other footage showing water surging through the remains of the dam, according to Reuters.
Police ask people to evacuate danger zone
Ukraine’s National Police force has asked people in affected villages to evacuate, the Ukrainska Pravda website reported.
The National Police said on the Telegram social messaging app: “Units of the National Police and the State Emergency Service of the Kherson region were alerted to ... evacuate the civilian population from potential flooding zones on the right bank of the Dnipro River, namely: the villages of Mykolaivka, Olhivka, Lyovo, Tyaginka, Poniativka, Ivanovka, Tokarivka, Poniativka, Prydniprovske, Sadove and partly the city of Kherson - Korabel Island.”
The announcement added, as quoted by Britain’s The Guardian newspaper: “The water level is rising and everyone who is in the danger zone must turn off all electrical appliances; take documents and essentials; take care of loved ones and pets; follow the instructions of rescuers and policemen.”
Oleksandr Prokudin, the Ukraine-appointed head of the Kherson region military administration, said in a video statement posted on Telegram: “The Russian Army has committed another act of terror. It has blown up Kakhovka Hydro Power Plant. The water will reach critical level in five hours. Evacuation in the area of danger has started.”
Prokudin urged citizens to collect their "documents and most needed belongings and wait for evacuation buses.”
“I ask you to do everything you can to save your life," he added, as quoted by US broadcaster CNN. "Leave the dangerous areas immediately."
President calls emergency meeting over dam blast
Ukraine’s National Security Council has announced that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will hold an emergency meeting over the dam blast, The Guardian reported.
In November, Zelensky said that any attempt by Russian forces to blow up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, flooding Ukrainian territory and dewatering the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, would mean Russia “declaring war on the whole world,” The Kyiv Independent website reported.
Zelensky said in a tweet on Tuesday morning: “Russian terrorists. The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land. Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror.”
He added: “All services are working. I have convened the National Security and Defense Council.”
Meanwhile, Russian news agencies said the Moscow-controlled dam had been destroyed in “shelling,” while a Russian-installed official said it was a “terrorist attack,” implying an attack by Ukraine, the Reuters news agency reported.
Built in 1956, the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper river is 30 metres tall and 3.2 kilometres long, and forms part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, according to Reuters.
The dam holds a reservoir about the size of America’s Great Salt Lake and also provides water to Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, and to the Moscow-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, The Guardian reported.
Tuesday is day 468 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Source: PAP, Reuters, Ukrainska Pravda, The Kyiv Independent, The Guardian, CNN