CHASIV YAR (Ukraine). — Dozens of Ukrainian emergency workers labored Sunday to pull people out of the rubble after a Russian rocket attack smashed into apartment buildings in eastern Ukraine. At least 15 victims were killed in the strike, and many more people are still believed to have been trapped by it a day later.
Late Saturday night, the strike erupted in an apartment block in Chasiv Yar’s residential area. This quarter is occupied mainly by workers from nearby factories. Ukraine’s Emergency Services said Sunday they have rescued five people from the rubble so far and have made contact with three others still trapped alive beneath the ruins.
Excavators and cranes were used in tandem with rescue crews to remove the rubble from one building. Its sides had been completely destroyed by the striking force. Even though it was dangerous, the rescue workers continued their work. A few miles from the rescuers, the distant artillery sound made some workers panic and other workers run for safety when it became too dangerous.
Pavlo Kyrylenko is the governor of Donetsk, the region which includes Chasiv Yar. He said that the Uragan rockets were fired from truck-borne systems and the city of around 12,000 people was damaged. Chasiv Yar lies 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Kramatorsk. This city is an important target for Russian forces moving westward.
The Associated Press was told by residents that they had heard several explosions. Many people suffered serious injuries in the blasts. In the courtyard, a few neighbors were silently discussing which victims had been hurt and those still missing.
“There was an explosion, all the windows blew out and I was thrown to the ground. My children called me to inform them that I was okay. My kitchen walls and balcony have completely vanished,” said one resident, 45-year-old Oksana, who did not wish to provide her last name.
Her tears swelled as she spoke. The missiles had struck her on her third-floor apartment.
“We didn’t hear any incoming sound, we just felt the impact. I ran with my dogs to hide in the corridor. Everybody I knew called me asking what was happening. I was shaking like a leaf,” said Irina Shulimova, a 59-year-old retiree.
In the blast, front doors and balconies fell apart, bricks and metal piles piled on the ground and summer cherries were crushed among the window panes that had been shattered.
Oleksandr, a 30-year-old tech worker said that his mother was one of the victims in the blast.
“Thank God I wasn’t injured, it was a miracle,” he said, touching the crucifix around his neck.
Although the home he shares with his mother is now shattered, he says he doesn’t plan to leave the neighborhood.
“I only have enough money to support myself for another month. Lots of people are fed up already of refugees coming from the east – no one will feed or support us there. It’s better to stay,” said Oleksandr, who declined to give his surname.
Dima was another resident who had been living on the ground floor in one of the destroyed buildings for over 20 years. He moved back and forth through the rubble.
“As you can see, my home is lost,” he said.
An attack on a southern Odesa area apartment building and recreation center that resulted in 21 deaths earlier this month left twenty-one others dead. A Russian missile struck the Kremenchuk mall late in June and killed at least 19.
Russia repeatedly claims that the war is only hitting targets with military significance. A briefing held by the Russian Defense Ministry did not include any comment about Chasiv Yar on Sunday.
Donetsk is one of the two regions that together with Luhansk make up Donbas, where separatist rebels fight Ukrainian forces. Russia took Lysychansk last week. It was the last stronghold for Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk.
Russian forces are raising “true hell” in the Donbas, despite assessments they were taking an operational pause, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said Saturday.
After the seizure of Lysychansk, some analysts predicted that Moscow’s troops likely would take some time to rearm and regroup.
But “so far there has been no operational pause announced by the enemy. He is still attacking and shelling our lands with the same intensity as before,” Haidai said. He said that Ukrainian forces had destroyed several ammunition depots, and barracks which were used by Russians.
Read More From Time