Mariupol City Council said on Tuesday that an estimated 2,000 private cars had managed to leave the city, and another 2,000 were parked on the main road outside Mariupol as of 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
The departures took place despite the continued failure to establish formally safe corridors for the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, which has been besieged since March 1.
Ukrainian officials estimate that up to 2,500 civilians were killed in Mariupol. About 350,000 people are trapped in the city, with officials warning those left without electricity, water and heating.
Two women who managed to escape to the Zaporizhia region, about 140 miles away, on Monday told CNN about conditions in Mariupol and their frightening excursion.
Lydia, who has not revealed her last name due to safety concerns, told CNN she decided to leave Mariupol after Russian bombing began hitting near her home.
“We left the city under the bombardment,” the 34-year-old said. “There is no silence in Mariupol.” “Today we spoke to our neighbors, and they said that now the situation is worse, so no one knows if people will be able to leave Mariupol today.”
She said she spent two weeks in a basement with about 60 other people, adding that she would leave occasionally only to retrieve things from her apartment.
Describing the flight outside the city, Lydia said: “We stopped several times and hid the children because the plane was flying very low right above us. We were afraid that we would be shot. But it was no longer possible to stay in the city. Mariupol is now just hell.”
Svetlana, who did not reveal her last name due to safety concerns, told CNN that she had allowed 17 people to take shelter in her home after their homes were destroyed, and cooked soup in her garden using rainwater.
“When the war started, I didn’t want to leave. But when the shells started flying overhead around the clock, staying there became unbearable,” the 57-year-old said. “My son stayed in Mariupol, I am very worried about him, but he decided to stay. I could not persuade him to leave.”
Speaking about the conditions in Mariupol, Svetlana said: “There are still many people in the city. I told my neighbors that it is possible to leave, but they are afraid that everything is mined.”
She added, “Yesterday the last grocery store in town was bombed, I wonder how people will survive now?”
With the city turning into a battlefield, a Ukrainian official accused Russian forces on Tuesday of holding people in the Mariupol Regional Intensive Care Hospital.
Doctors and patients are being held against their will, said Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration, adding that a hospital employee was able to pass on information about what was happening.
“It is impossible to get out of the hospital. They are shooting hard, we are sitting in the basement. Cars have not been able to drive to the hospital for two days. High-rise buildings are burning around us … The Russians rushed in,” Kirilenko said in his official channel on Telegram, citing an employee of the hospital, It’s 400 people from the adjacent buildings to our hospital. We can’t leave.”
Kirilenko said the hospital was “virtually destroyed” several days ago, but its staff and patients remained in the basement where patients continued to be treated.
Satellite images released by Maxar Technologies on Monday reveal the extent of damage to the city, including the hospital and a number of apartment complexes.
The hospital has a hole in its southern walls and rubble can be seen scattered around it, while apartment buildings have shown significant damage.
Satellite images of the Primorsky district, about a mile south of the hospital, show homes burning after apparently hit by Russian strikes.
Drone footage that surfaced on Monday also showed a destroyed apartment complex and thick plumes of smoke billowing over the city’s west.
The video was posted on Telegram by the Azov Battalion, an ultra-nationalist militia that has since been incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces. CNN has geolocated and verified the video.
Multiple official attempts to create safe corridors and evacuate civilians from Mariupol have failed in recent days. Officials said a large convoy of humanitarian aid that was supposed to arrive on Sunday did not reach the city until Monday.
Some have resorted to thawing and dismantling heating systems to get water to drink, Petro Andryushenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor, told Ukrainian TV on Monday.
“Most people are staying in basements and shelters in inhumane conditions. No food, no water, no electricity, no heating,” Andryushenko said.
Speaking on Monday, Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said the bombing of Mariupol had killed more than 2,500 people.
CNN cannot independently verify these casualty numbers.
On Monday, Zelensky also accused Russia of committing war crimes in its attacks on the city and other parts of the country.
“Responsibility for war crimes committed by the Russian army is inevitable. Responsibility for a deliberate humanitarian catastrophe in Ukrainian cities is inevitable,” he said. “The whole world sees what is happening in Mariupol.”
Jack Guy Books from London. Reported by Ivana Kutsova from Lviv.
CNN’s Tim Lister, Tamara Keblawi and Yulia Kasaeva contributed to this report.
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