Russian attacks exacerbate the crisis in Bakhmut: citizens suffer from lack of water and flee in search of humanitarian aid

A dog named Chip sits next to the Ukrainian military men repairing their tank near the town of Bakhmut, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine (STRINGER/)

Valentina and her daughter Natalia ran out of gas when fighting broke out in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut (east), where later the bombings destroyed power lines. In August they no longer had water, and the untenable situation forced them to leave.

The battle for control of this city in the region of Donetsk is one of the longest and most devastating of the war in Ukraine. When the fighting intensified, the two women had no choice but to replace the gas and electricity for firewood and coal.

But when it became impossible to get water from their neighborhood well due to fighting, they set out on the perilous journey across the river. Bakhmutovka to escape the besieged city.

“A week ago it was still possible to live there, but not anymore,” says Natalia, 52, who, along with her 73-year-old mother, is waiting to be evacuated from a humanitarian aid center, along with 8,000 other Bakhmut residents.

The city, which had a pre-war population of 70,000, had struggled to safeguard its water supply since March, when shelling hit a canal, the main water supply, and two wells.

But their efforts were thwarted by intensifying shelling.

“I dream of taking a shower”

“Now it is the volunteers who supply the city with drinking water,” he explains to the AFP the head of the military administration Bakhmut, Oleksandr Marchenko.

Last week, jerry cans were distributed to residents at a humanitarian aid.

Two women receive humanitarian aid as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues
Two women receive humanitarian aid, while Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues (ZOHRA BENSEMRA /)

Firefighters also deliver water, and in addition to the few private wells, residents collect water from wherever they can on the street, according to Marchenko.

It is a less risky solution than the river, which divides the city in two and is one of the front lines.

Svitlana, 38, her husband and their five-year-old son have crossed a dilapidated bridge under heavy shelling several times in search of water, only 36 liters of which they have been able to bring back.

“We haven’t had water since the war began,” says the woman, as she watches her son play in the shelter opened by the Unidad del Pueblo organization in what used to be a sports center.

“I dream of taking a shower”says Svitlana, who has been washing herself with wet wipes for months.

No water to put out fires

Volunteers dig a well in front of the building that houses the center. It also plans to install showers and washing machines.

Ruslan Khublo33, studied engineering and responded to a message posted on Instagram to participate in the project.

During a recent visit from the AFPthe bombardments reached the neighborhood, killing at least one person.

But this young man, whose city, olenivkais occupied by Russian forces, does not give up.

“We don’t know if they will be able to take Bakhmut or not, but the people who live here need help,” he says. “There are people who have not been able to bathe for two months.”

A 500-litre water truck, filled daily by volunteers or firefighters, has become a crucial water distributor for humanitarian and medical centers.

But this system is at its limit, since firefighters have to fill the tanks of their trucks not only to supply water, but also to put out the fires caused by the bombing.

A Ukrainian flag flutters in the wind attached to a tank, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, overlooking Bakhmut, Ukraine
A Ukrainian flag flutters in the wind attached to a tank, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, overlooking Bakhmut, Ukraine (CLODAGH KILCOYNE /)

Last week, Olga and Mykalo watched helplessly as their apartment burned after the fire brigade ran out of water.

Protestant humanitarian organization Hands to Help is providing materials to build two wells and Anatoly Beztalanny48, has volunteered with others to dig them up.

“We have enough food, but there is a problem with hygiene and water,” he says.

A layer of rock prevents them from advancing. They must return to the capital, kyivin search of drilling equipment.

They vow to return, despite the danger.

(With information from AFP)

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