Evacuations begin around Zaporizhzhia

Zaporizhzhia_IAEA imagebank_WikiM

From Common Dreams:

The situation Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has taken a turn for the worse as Russia has begun evacuating 18 settlements in the Zaporizhzhia region, including Enerhodar.

The BBC has cited as Ukrainian official as saying this has sparked a “mad panic” – and traffic jams have been observed as thousands of people pack up and head out of the city.

The exiled mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, wrote on Telegram that shops in the evacuated areas had run out of goods and medicine. He also said hospitals were discharging patients into the street amid fears that electricity and water supplies could be suspended.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA ) experts still at the plant site are continuing to hear shelling on a regular basis, including Friday night. Ukrainian authorities on Sunday said that a 72-year-old woman was killed and three others were wounded when Russian forces fired more than 30 shells at Nikopol, a Ukrainian-held town neighboring the nuclear plant.

The situation is “becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous,” the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said Saturday.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement :

“The general situation in the area near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.”

“I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant.”

“We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment. This major nuclear facility must be protected.”

“I will continue to press for a commitment by all sides to achieve this vital objective, and the IAEA will continue to do everything it can to help ensure nuclear safety and security at the plant,” he said.

The expected Ukrainian spring counter-offensive is viewed as likely to take in the Zaporizhzhia region, around 80% of which is controlled by Russian forces.

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