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In eastern Ukraine, keeping the lights on is a dangerous job

BACHMUT – As fighting in eastern Ukraine rages on, Russian attacks are destroying electricity, water and gas in entire cities – and utility crews sent to repair the shattered transmission lines and pipes find themselves in the midst of shelling.

Crews sometimes arrive at a location only to be forced to retreat because of it the fight, officials say. Some villages are not accessible.

“It’s dangerous because we can hear the shells whistling overhead,” said Sergii Marokhin, a water systems engineer in the town of Bakhmut, which has come under increased shelling lately as Russian forces ramped up their offensive in the Donetsk region Advancing Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland of Ukraine.

The day before, shelling had damaged water pipes in a nearby village and in Bakhmut itself, which he and his crew had been repairing that morning. There was a sewage pipe to repair and damage to water pipes in other nearby villages.

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Even on quiet days, regular maintenance work still needs to be carried out.

“Even during the war, people go to work,” he says with a shrug.

In some hard-hit places, people have been forced to rely on makeshift outdoor and brick-and-stone kilns.

“As of today, half the city is without water. The other half of the city gets water from boreholes,” Oleksandr Marchenko, deputy head of Bakhmut’s military administration, said on Wednesday. A dam to the north has blown up, drying up the canal that runs past Bakhmut, he said.

The city has an emergency water supply, but downed power lines were preventing the water from being pumped. Engineers hoped to repair the damage if it was safe to do so.

“Unfortunately, the city is bombed every day,” Marchenko said. As if to prove his point, mortar shells whistled over his head, sending him to a grassy riverbank for cover.

The mortar fire landed with a bang in the northern part of the city, sending up plumes of black smoke.

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“There’s no gas, no electricity, no water!” Viktor Paramonov thundered as he and a few others on the outskirts of Bakhmut prepared to cook on a makeshift open-air stove, one with a wood fire and one on bricks balanced metal plate. “There is nothing.”

A few days earlier, a nearby building materials factory had been destroyed in bombing raids. In mid-May, the apartment building next to him was hit, causing part of it to collapse.

Further north in Sloviansk, a generator hummed at City Hall after power went out because high-voltage lines were shut down by fighting in the east. The water supply was also cut off.

“Repair crews have to go to combat zones, which is dangerous,” said Vadym Lyakh, head of the Sloviansk military administration.

City authorities supplied water from reservoirs to Sloviansk residents, who number about 30,000, up from 100,000 before the war, he said. Others used municipal water pumps.

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Behind a row of apartment buildings pockmarked by shrapnel from a recent rocket hit, residents were filling buckets and plastic bottles from an old yellow pump on the street.

The pump takes too much power, an elderly man grumbled. Some women have to wait for a man to come along and pull the lever, he said, while assembling a small metal stove to cook lunch outdoors.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/06/04/in-eastern-ukraine-keeping-the-lights-on-is-a-dangerous-job/ In eastern Ukraine, keeping the lights on is a dangerous job

Sarah Y. Kim

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