Demonstrators at the Russian embassy in Dublin on Thursday related stories of dead bodies and dead animals washing through the streets of Kherson following the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.
In the early hours of Tuesday, footage began to emerge of water spilling through the dam. Kyiv has warned that environmental damage from the disaster could last for decades, and threats to human and animal life range from chemicals washed into the river to landmines dislodged by the flood.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday described “biblical scenes” with whole villages and towns under water, and described it as “a huge humanitarian catastrophe on top of a country that’s been at war now for more than a year”.
Hundreds of people – many of them Ukrainian – gathered at the Russian embassy on Orwell Road on Thursday evening to accuse Moscow of “genocide, ecocide and war crimes”. There were also renewed calls for the Government to expel Russian ambassador Yuriy Filatov.
Maryna Saben Huz (27) from Kherson, who came to Ireland one month ago, showed images of her submerged home to The Irish Times. “This is my house,” she said. “Everything is destroyed.”
“Our streets are flooded. There is water everywhere, right up to the roofs of the houses. This is dirty water, and is filled not just with dead animals but with dead people also. People are drowning and getting washed away. We don’t know how many people have died.”
Another video on her phone showed a woman and two children sitting on the slanted roof a house, with drinking water being dropped to them from drones overhead.
Kateryna Zaporozhets (42) from Kherson, who has been in Ireland for eight months, said: “There are no humanitarian corridors where I live. Any time there are attempts to evacuate the area there are shootings, so volunteers can’t evacuate. I know of one dead person and three wounded.”
When the Kakhovka dam broke, its sprawling nature reserves, national parks and a popular zoo were completely washed away.
“This is also a catastrophe from an ecological point of view,” said Ms Zaporozhets. “Our soil is very fertile and now it has been drowned in the water. That means we will have very bard harvests for the next few years and we will not be able to export food to Africa and Asia like we do now.
“My neighbour is a very old man and they can’t evacuate him because of the shootings. He has a two-storey house and the second floor is in the water already. My mother could not get out of bed today. She has been sick since this news. She couldn’t manage to come to this protest. She is just lying in bed.
“We are hearing from group chats on Telegram that old people are drowning in the water in Oleshky, but there are no photos yet because there is no connection. People are sharing information and trying to find their relatives. It was the same in Mariupol more than a year ago.”
Svitlana Tymchenko (40), also from Kherson, who arrived in Ireland one year ago, showed a text message from her mother in the stricken city that read: “Everything is okay.”
“This is the message from my mother,” she said. “The battery is going down so they turn on the phone just to send one message per day. My parents are there with two cats and two dogs. They keep in touch but only in the morning.
“I don’t know if they have been evacuated yet because there is no connection between us right now. Yesterday evening was the last contact.
“I am very worried about them because they have pills to take. They are crying a lot and they are not sleeping. I want to say thank you to my Irish hosts because they are supporting me a lot right now.”