Russian missiles continued to devastate major cities across Ukraine on Friday — as rescuers desperately tried to reach as many as 1,300 people feared trapped for two days below the rubble of a blown-up theater in the city of Mariupol.
The early morning barrages included strikes on the capital Kyiv, where at least one person was killed and nearly 100 others forced to flee when six houses and two schools were hit in the central Podil neighborhood, on the banks of the Dnieper River.
At least four children were among 19 injured, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said from the scene — where distressing images showed a dazed — looking elderly woman walking with blood dripping down her wounded head.
Two others were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Missiles also struck the western city of Lviv, which is close to the Polish border and has become a hub both for fleeing refugees as well as those bringing aid.
Multiple blasts hit in quick succession around 6 a.m., shaking nearby buildings — and leaving huge plumes of black smoke rising over Lviv for hours.
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In Chernihiv — where American teacher Jimmy Hill, 68, was one of 10 gunned down in a bread line this week — at least 53 people were brought to morgues over 24 hours, Gov. Viacheslav Chaus said Thursday.
“The city has never known such nightmarish, colossal losses and destruction,” Chaus said.
In Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, a massive fire continued to rage Friday through a local market that was shelled a day earlier.
One firefighter was killed and another injured when new shelling hit as emergency workers fought the blaze, officials said.
As the latest airstrikes rained down, rescuers kept trying to find survivors of one of the worst attacks from 23 days of war, when a theater used as a shelter in besieged Mariupol was hit.
While some survivors had emerged, local officials feared more than 1,000 people remain in a basement bomb shelter below the rubble of the 3-story building that was clearly marked “CHILDREN” in Russian.
“As of now, we know that 130 people have been evacuated, but according to our data, there are still more than 1,300 people in these basements, in this bomb shelter,” the country’s human rights commissioner, Ludmyla Denisova, told Ukrainian television.
“We pray that they will all be alive, but so far there is no information about them.”
Ukrainian parliament member Sergiy Taruta gave similar warnings of “a tragedy of a WORLDWIDE scale!”
“How many people continue to be under the ruins, how many injured and killed there, no one knows,” he said, saying the theater was a sanctuary after 80 percent of the city’s homes were damaged by Russian shelling.
“A lot of doctors have been killed. This means that all the survivors of the bombing will either die under the ruins of the theater, or have already died,” he wrote.
The World Health Organization said it had verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured.
At the same time, Ukraine’s “food supply chain is falling apart,” warned Jakob Kern, Emergency Coordinator for the crisis at the United Nations’ World Food Programme. “Movements of goods have slowed down due to insecurity and the reluctance of drivers”.
Western intelligence experts have said Russia has increasingly relied on airstrikes due to its military’s apparent failure to successfully attack on the ground.
As of Friday, more than 14,200 Russian troops had been killed and more than 3,000 military vehicles destroyed, including more than 200 helicopters and planes, 450 tanks and nearly 1,500 armored vehicles, Ukraine’s military claimed. Those numbers could not be independently confirmed.
With Post wires