In eastern Ukraine, keeping the lights on is a dangerous job
BAKHMUT Ukraine As the fighting in eastern Ukraine inches ahead, Russian attacks are knocking out power and water to entire cities. Utility crews sent to repair the damaged transmission lines and pipes are finding their way in the middle of the bombardment. Officials say that sometimes
Crews arrive at a location and are forced to leave because of fighting. Some villages are difficult to reach.
“It’s dangerous because we can hear the shells whisling above us,” said Sergii Martokhin, a water system engineer in Bakhmut. This town has been under increased shelling lately as Russian forces push their offensive in Donetsk, Ukraine’s eastern industrial center.
Shelling had caused damage to water pipes in Bakhmut and a nearby village. Sergii Marokhin and his crew were repairing them that morning. There was a sewage line to repair and water lines to other villages.
Even on quiet days, there are still maintenance tasks to be done.
“People still work during wartime,” he said, with a shrug.
In some places that have been hard hit, people have had to rely on outdoor stoves and ovens made of bricks and stone.
” Half of the city is currently without water. Oleksandr Marsenko, deputy head for the Bakhmut military administration said Wednesday that the other half of the city gets water from boreholes. He said that a dam to the north was destroyed, drying up the waterway that runs past Bakhmut.
The city has a backup water supply but downed power lines have disrupted the pumping. Engineers were hopeful that they could repair the damage if safe.
“Unfortunately, the city gets bombed every day,” Marchenko said. To prove his point, mortar bombs whistled above his head, sending Marchenko diving onto a riverbank to cover.
The mortar fire landed in the northern half of the city with a loud bang, emitting black smoke.
” “There is no gas, electricity, or water!” shouted Viktor Paramonov, as he and others prepared to cook on an open-air stove made of a wood fire, a metal plate and bricks. “There is nothing.”
A nearby construction materials factory had been destroyed in bombing a few days earlier. The apartment building next to him was hit in mid-May, causing it to collapse.
Farther north, in Sloviansk a generator whirred in the city hall after power was cut due to high-voltage lines that were downed by fighting just east. Water supply was also cut.
” Repair crews had to travel to combat areas, which is dangerous,” stated Vadym Lyakh of the Sloviansk military administration.
City authorities delivered water from reservoirs to the Sloviansk’s inhabitants, who number around 30,000, down from a prewar 100,000, he said. Others used communal water pumps.
Behind several apartment buildings that were damaged by shrapnel during a recent rocket strike had residents filled buckets with water from an old yellow pump.
The pump is too difficult to operate, grumbled an elderly man. He said that some women must wait for a man who can operate the pump. He also assembled a small metal stove to cook outside.
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