A Russian missile struck a block of flats in eastern Ukraine yesterday , killing at least three people and blowing out the windows and doors of neighbouring properties.
The projectile struck a four-storey block of flats where witnesses said three families had been living.
Hundreds of rescuers, including local civilians, police, soldiers and firemen spent hours moving the rubble, brick by brick, to try to dig out survivors.
About an hour after the strike, a group of rescuers carried out the body of a woman on a stretcher and laid her down on a grass verge across the road from the ruins.
Then they covered her body with a foil blanket and walked away. They waited until most of the crowd was preoccupied elsewhere before putting the body into a body bag.
“People may remain under the rubble,” Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said shortly after the missile struck.
Two men who climbed down from the pile after two hours of work told The Telegraph they did not know how many, if any, people were trapped.
Asked if they could hear voices in the ruins, they said: “You could hear them at the beginning.”
Ukrainian authorities believe the block was hit by a Russian Iskander-K ballistic missile. It came as European Union officials arrived in Kyiv for talks seen as key to Ukraine’s pivot towards the West.
Witnesses described a powerful shockwave that could be felt across the town and which broke windows and took internal doors off their hinges in neighbouring buildings.
Leonid Klyuny was watching television in bed when the shockwave ripped through his apartment.
“There was just the most enormous explosion and this ‘tak-tak-tak’ sound like things were falling,” he recalled as he swept up his flat.
The shockwave blew in his street-side windows, threw his kitchen cupboards to the floor, and shattered the glass on the rear windows.
Mr Klyuny and his cat were unharmed.
He added: “So I ran to the window on the other side of the house. It was smashed in and [I then] saw the police arriving. Then some other people coming to help.”
A large section of the block of flats across the street had been vaporised. Ukrainian officials say three people are confirmed dead and 20 were injured in the strike.
That figure would almost certainly have been in the dozens, or possibly hundreds, if many of the flats had not been empty.
The missile completely destroyed stairwells one and two of number 13 Marat Street, a four-storey residential apartment block.
It sheared open the neighbouring sections of the block and blew out every single window on neighbouring buildings in a radius of around 100 metres.
A shop nearby made of prefabricated corrugated metal was also destroyed.
The lucky escapes include Mr Klyuny’s sister, who lived in a flat on the third stairwell – the part of the stricken building that was left standing but sheared open by the missile.
She was removed from her ruined flat, treated in hospital, and at the home of a friend by morning. Mr Klyuny said he knew she was alive, and was pretty sure she was going to be okay.
“She talks too much. I can last about five minutes and it’s enough. And every time I ring her, the phone is engaged, so she’s probably fine,” he said.
“But there’s three other people I knew over there. A mother and daughter, and another girl. I don’t know their names or whether they made it.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2023)
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