30,000 civilians have fled Ukraine's besieged Mariupol: city hall

30,000 civilians have fled Ukraine's besieged Mariupol: city hall
Around 30,000 people managed to escape the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after the intense Russian shelling of a theatre.
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Over 30,000 residents fled the besieged city [Getty]

Authorities in Ukraine's Mariupol on Thursday said around 30,000 people have fled the besieged city and that they were clarifying information on possible victims of the Russian shelling of a theatre sheltering civilians a day earlier.

Mariupol's city hall said on Telegram that "around 30,000 people have left on their transport", adding that "80 percent of residential housing was destroyed". It said it was "clarifying information on victims" of the theatre shelling.

Survivors began to emerge Thursday as authorities worked to rescue hundreds of civilians trapped in the basement of a theater blasted by Russian airstrikes in the besieged city of Mariupol, while ferocious Russian bombardment killed dozens in a northern city over the past day, the local governor said.

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The strikes the previous evening had left a large section of the grand, 3-three story theater building in the center of Mariupol collapsed in a smoking ruin, according to photos released by the city council. Inside, hundreds of men, women and children — up to 1,000 according to some officials — had taken shelter in the basement, seeking safety amid Russia's strangulating 3-week siege of the strategic southern port city.

Rescuers worked to clearing rubble that had blocked the entrance to the basement, despite new strikes reported elsewhere in the city Thursday. Miraculously, the shelter stood firm, officials said. “The building withstood the impact of a high-powered air bomb and protected the lives of people hiding in the bomb shelter," Ukraine’s ombudswoman Ludmyla Denisova said on the Telegram messaging app Thursday.

The strike against the theater was part of a furious bombardment of civilian targets in multiple cities over past day. Also struck in Mariupol on Wednesday was a municipal pool where pregnant women and women with children were taking shelter, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration. Hours later, there was no word on casualties in that strike.

To the north, at least 53 people were brought to morgues over the past 24 hours in the city of Chernihiv, killed amid heavy Russian airtrikes, artillery bombardment and ground fire, the local governor Viacheslav Chaus told Ukrainian TV on Thursday. Ten people were killed while lining up for bread in the city, the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday. Russia has denied involvement.