Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) speaks to National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko (R) during a visit Thursday to Kherson to assess the damage from flooding unleashed by the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam earlier in the week. Photo by Mykola Tymchenko/EPA-EFE
June 8 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday visited the southern Kherson region devastated by the Kakhovka dam collapse as the first deaths were reported amid warnings of landmines swept out of position by floodwaters.
The operational situation, including evacuating residents from areas that could be the next to flood, getting critical support to people in areas already underwater, repairing ecosystem damage and the military situation were among the issues the president discussed with officials, according to a post on his Telegram account.
"It is important to calculate the damage and allocate funds to compensate residents affected by the disaster and develop a program to compensate for losses or relocate businesses within the Kherson region," Zelensky added.
The first reports of deaths from both sides Thursday, suggest at least eight people have been killed. The exiled mayor of Russian-occupied Oleshky said three people had drowned, the Kyiv Independent reported. The Russian state-run RIA news agency reported that five had drowned in Nova Kakhovka, adjacent to the dam.
Zelensky's visit came as the Red Cross' weapons contamination unit told the BBC that mines laid by Russian forces that the local authorities had spent many months mapping had been scattered downstream with some now in built-up areas.
Most of the mines are triggered when someone steps on them, said Red Cross weapons contamination unit head Erik Tollefsen.
Military South Command spokeswoman Nataliya Humeniuk said the anti-infantry mines were now floating mines that "posed a great danger" because they were likely to detonate if they hit against something.
Efforts were continuing to rescue stranded residents from 18-foot deep floodwaters covering a 232-square-mile area, two-thirds of which is on the eastern side of the Dnipro River, Kherson Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said in a video on Telegram.
Prokudin said authorities had managed to move almost 2,000 people to safety but said rescue efforts were being hampered by Russian forces continuing to shell the area.
Late Wednesday, Zelensky criticized aid agencies for being slow to respond and appealed for "clear and quick response" from the international community to help rescue people stranded by the flood, warning that people left without drinking water, food or medicine would certainly die.