The United Nations has raised "extreme" concern that an escalation of fighting near water infrastructures in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk could lead to a deadly chlorine gas disaster.
The UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine, Neal Walker, said on November 8 that two water filter stations on both sides of the contact line separating government-held territory and separatist-controlled territory have been shelled over recent days.
“The UN is extremely concerned about the possible release of hazardous chlorine gas stored at both filter stations,” a statement said. “If a single 900 kg gas container is hit, anyone within 200 meters might receive fatal dose of the poisonous gas.”
The statement said that the Donetsk Filter Station has been shelled for three consecutive nights in the past six days, while the Verkhniokalmiuska Filter Station was hit more than 12 times in one single night.
It also said that the recent escalation of hostilities near water, electricity, and gas supply infrastructure in the Donetsk region threatens to disrupt essential services such as water and heating amid freezing temperatures.
Some 1.1 million people on both sides of the contact line could be deprived of clean water as a result of the fighting, according to Walker.
"Without sustained essential water supply, heating systems will stop and health conditions will deteriorate," he said. "Children, the elderly, women, and people with disabilities may flee their homes in search of heat and shelter."
Fighting between Kyiv's forces and the Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.
Several cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords -- September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict -- have reduced fighting but not stopped it.