Ukraine is preparing for a cold, dark winter

An employee at a gas station in Kiev during a power outage on Friday.

An employee at a gas station in Kiev during a power outage on Friday.

As winter approaches, Alla Melnychuk and her neighbors race against time to save what little they have left.

His apartment building in Irpin was attacked during some of the fiercest fighting in March. Most of the windows are still broken, there is no roof, and the sewage pits have burned out, which means that there is no water supply or sewage outlet. Heavy rains in September caused even more damage, but Melnychuk is determined to push ahead with repairs.

– We are late, we are slowly rebuilding, we bought timber and are installing the roof, but I am not even thinking about the option of not finishing it before winter – he said.

As the weather turns colder, millions of Ukrainians like Melnychuk are scrambling to prepare for what they know will be an extremely harsh winter, rushing to repair their homes and secure enough fuel to keep warm.

These problems have been exacerbated in recent weeks by a series of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electricity and heating infrastructure.

Ukraine’s energy agency said it had to implement “severe” and “unprecedented” emergency power cuts in Kyiv to avoid a “total blackout” as the capital faces a 30% power shortage. She urged residents to use electricity “sparingly”, especially in the morning and evening, while businesses were asked to turn off lights in front of offices, restaurants and shopping centers.

Power outages are unpredictable, which means people need to be prepared at all times. Computers and phones are charged whenever there is an opportunity. Some elevators in the city’s high-rise apartment buildings are equipped with emergency boxes.

Driving in the city became more dangerous during the blackout; traffic accidents increased by 25 percent, according to the police. Stores close when the power goes out, and some restaurants have started advertising “blackout” menus, with food and drinks they can serve during the outage.

To help people heat their homes, the Ukrainian government has launched a new online firewood store that makes it easier for people to find local suppliers.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk advised Ukrainian refugees not to return home this winter because of the risk of the country’s fragile electricity grid being completely overloaded.

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