After Theater Bombing, Rescue Services 'No Longer Exist'

With 130 survivors but 'hundreds' still buried in rubble, things still look dire in Mariupol, Ukraine
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2022 1:29 PM CDT
130 Survive Theater Bombing, 'Hundreds' Unaccounted for
This image shows the drama theater, damaged after shelling, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday.   (Azov Battalion via AP)

(Newser) – The search for survivors continued Friday in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where Russian forces have been accused of targeting civilians by bombing a mosque, a maternity hospital, and, most recently, a theater. Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine's human rights chief, told the Washington Post that 130 people have been rescued from the rubble of the theater—which was being used as a shelter for locals—since it was shelled on Wednesday. But Denisova also noted that those have been the only rescues of the 1,300 or so people who were believed to have been hunkering down in a shelter beneath the building, with the rest remaining unaccounted for.

"There are still hundreds of Mariupol residents under the rubble," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Friday in a video shared on the Telegram app. Still, "despite the shelling, despite all the difficulties, we will continue the rescue work." And many difficulties there are, as Mariupol has been among the hardest-hit cities during the Russian assault that started Feb. 24. A former head of the Donetsk regional administration says that rescue efforts are moving slowly, as people are afraid of being attacked themselves, and due to what CNN calls "a complete breakdown of social services" in Mariupol.

“People are clearing away the rubble themselves," Sergiy Taruta told local broadcasters. "There is no rescue operation, because all the services that are supposed to rescue people, to treat them, to bury them, these services no longer exist." It's not clear if any fatalities have been recorded. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova continues to deny Russia had anything to do with the theater's destruction, calling accusations that it was responsible a "lie," per the Post. The BBC has the account of a mother and her teen son, who were sheltering at the theater but fled it the day before it was attacked. "We knew we had to run away because something terrible would happen soon," she says. More from her here. (Read more Mariupol stories.)

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