Ukraine accused Russia of bombing a hospital for children and pregnant women in Mariupol on Wednesday. City officials said the airstrike happened during a cease-fire to permit civilians trapped in the port city to escape.
The Associated Press reported that the ground shook more than 1.6 kilometers away after several explosions at the hospital complex. The blasts blew out windows and destroyed much of the front of one building.
Police and soldiers rushed to the area to remove the victims. They carried a pregnant and bleeding woman on a stretcher. Another woman cried as she held her child. On the grounds, there were burned cars and a large, two-story-deep bomb crater.
Ukrainian officials said at least 17 people were wounded. They were still searching the area late Wednesday.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter, “Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity!” He also shared a video of the inside of a badly damaged building filled with rubble.
Dmitry Peskov is the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin. When asked by Reuters for comment on the reported bombing, he said, "Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets."
Earlier on Monday, the World Health Organization wrote on Twitter, "So far, WHO has verified 18 attacks on health facilities [in #Ukraine], #healthworkers and ambulances, including 10 deaths and 16 injuries.” The organization said the attacks denied communities of needed health care.
Burying the dead
Mariupol, a city of 430,000 people on the Sea of Azov, has been surrounded by Russian forces for the past week. Ukraine officials told Reuters at least 1,170 civilians had been killed in the city since the start of the invasion. It was not possible to confirm the numbers with independent sources.
People in the city have been burying the dead in a mass grave. They dug a trench some 25 meters long at one of the city’s old cemeteries Wednesday to bury more than 60 bodies wrapped in clothes or bags. Some were soldiers, but most were civilians.
The work was done quickly without ceremony, other than the sign of the cross. No mourners were present, no families to say their goodbyes. One woman stood at the gates of the cemetery to ask whether her mother was among those being buried. She was.
Across Ukraine, thousands are thought to have been killed since Russian forces invaded two weeks ago. The United Nations estimates more than 2.1 million people have also fled to neighboring countries.
Likely to get worse
The fighting knocked out power to the inactive Chernobyl nuclear plant and started a fire at Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power center in Europe. But the UN nuclear agency said no release of radioactive material has been found.
"In just two weeks, homes have been reduced to rubble," the International Committee of the Red Cross said of the situation in Ukraine. “Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, no water, no heat, no electricity and no medical care."
American officials said the crisis is likely to get worse as Russian forces increase airstrikes and missile attacks on Ukrainian cities. On Wednesday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace added that Russia’s assault will get “more brutal and more indiscriminate.”
The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, is building up defenses in other cities and around the capital of Kyiv against the Russian offensive.
In Irpin, a small town outside of Kyiv, police officers and soldiers helped older people from their homes. One man was carried out of a damaged building on a stretcher while another was pushed toward Kyiv in a shopping cart. They said they had been without power and water for the past four days.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in this Story
crater – n. large hole on the ground
maternity – adj. an area in a hospital where women give birth
atrocity – n. very cruel and terrible act
ambulance – n. vehicle used for taking sick or hurt people to the hospital
trench – n. a long, deep and narrow hole
rubble – n. broken pieces of stone, brick, walls from a building
brutal – adj. extremely cruel