Water levels are now receding around Mykolaiv. Access roads and bridges to the minefields where HALO was working prior to the dam breach are open again but most of the seven minefields on the Inhulets River are still partially flooded. This is concerning as our teams previously found 480 anti-tank mines here. We have heard reports of the movement of mines in Kherson and along the Dnieper River but no exact numbers are available at this time. Homes near the minefields have been flooded and crops ruined. The situation remains serious for local people—many areas don’t have clean drinking water so this is being provided by the Ukrainian authorities. We continue to monitor the situation and will return to work on the flooded minefields as soon as possible.
Press release: Friday 9 June 2023
Brovary, Kyiv: The HALO Trust is urging civilians in the areas flooded by the Nova Kakhovka dam to remain extra vigilant of landmines, as it confirmed it has been forced to suspend clearance work on seven minefields flooded by the collapse of the dam last Tuesday. The torrent of water that swept through the lower Dnipro River was powerful enough to dislodge landmines and in some cases cause 10kg anti-vehicle mines to detonate.
Mike Newton, Head of HALO Ukraine said: ‘This is a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe and the presence of enormous quantities of landmines magnifies the risk to civilians in the area. We will not know the exact number of displaced landmines until the waters subside, but it will require careful and rigorous mapping and clearance as soon as conditions allow.’
The HALO Trust has been surveying and clearing mines along the Inhulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro, since earlier this year. The mines were laid at the lowest points of the river to prevent troops from crossing in vehicles while the area was under occupation.
Jasmine Dann, Regional Manager for HALO said: 'After the liberation of Mykolaiv oblast, people returned to the riverbanks to cultivate their crops and graze their livestock. The mines posed a serious risk to them before the breaching of the dam, but the now the situation is even more difficult. HALO has risk education teams working in the area to keep people as safe as possible. We are still clearing minefields in Mykolaiv oblast and will recommence clearance in the flooded areas as soon as possible.'
The dislocation of landmines through flooding is not a new challenge to HALO, with flooding of minefields occurring in Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Somaliland throughout its 35-year history. While floodwater can move landmines themselves, the most common scenario is that the mines become more difficult to detect and remove as they become submerged under soil and debris.
‘In this case we are looking at an enormous volume of water in an area with an unprecedented number of landmines,’ said Newton. ‘HALO teams found around 5,000 mines in the last eight weeks around Mykolaiv, of which 464 were along the river-bank. But this is a fraction of the what we expect to find along a fortified frontline that extends over 900km.’
The HALO Trust will be attending the forthcoming Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on 21-22 June, to ensure that landmine clearance remains at the forefront of delegates’ minds. ‘There can be no talks about reconstruction of Ukraine without focusing on making the land safe from explosives. You simply cannot rebuild a country on mined foundations. We hope that the Conference will bring demining to the forefront of discussions, so HALO and our partners in mine clearance can help pave the path to recovery.’
Photos available to download here