Civilians fleeing Mariupol describe street battles; fate of those in bombed theater, art school still unknown

A woman holds a child in an improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
A woman holds a child in an improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

LVIV — Civilians making the dangerous escape from Ukraine’s embattled southern port hub of Mariupol describe fleeing through street-to-street gun battles and past unburied corpses as a steady Russian bombardment tries to pound the city into submission.

“There are no buildings there anymore,” says 77-year-old Maria Fiodorova, who crossed the border to Poland after five days of travel.

Olga Nikitina, who fled Mariupol for the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, says gunfire blew out her windows, and her apartment dropped below freezing.

“Battles took place over every street. Every house became a target,” she says.

A woman who gave her name as Yulia says she and her family sought shelter in Bezimenne after a bombing destroyed six houses behind her home.

“That’s why we got in the car, at our own risk, and left in 15 minutes because everything is destroyed there, dead bodies are lying around,” she says. “They don’t let us pass through everywhere — there are shootings.”

With communications crippled, movement restricted and many residents in hiding, the fate of those inside an art school flattened on Sunday and a theater that was blown apart four days earlier is unclear. More than 1,300 people are believed to be sheltering in the theater, and 400 are estimated to have been in the art school.

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