Home Human language CNN reports from Zaporizhzhia as buses carrying evacuees from Mariupol begin to...

CNN reports from Zaporizhzhia as buses carrying evacuees from Mariupol begin to arrive

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Lyudmila, 71, and Viktor, 63, cook at the basement entrance of an apartment building in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 30. (Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters)

Sergei Orlov, the deputy mayor of Mariupol, detailed the scene in the beleaguered port city as Ukrainian officials attempt to help those still inside and evacuate citizens who have fled to surrounding areas. .

“The city is totally destroyed. The city is like ruins… we are upset, not because of the infrastructure, but because of the people. So we don’t know how to help our citizens who are suffering inside the city,” he said during an interview with CNN’s Ana Cabrera. “Russia does not allow any humanitarian issues to be resolved, any humanitarian aid to be transferred and our citizens to be evacuated for several days.”

The official explained the status of evacuation efforts and the latest mission to evacuate Mariupol citizens who are in nearby areas.

“Once again, I want to clarify that there is no solution to reach Mariupol, neither humanitarian aid, nor the evacuation of citizens,” Orlov noted. “We are talking about evacuating citizens of Mariupol who are in Berdyansk, which are near Mariupol, the nearest villages…who reached Berdyansk themselves either on foot or by private car. Many citizens of Mariupol evacuated themselves, and about 30-50,000 Mariupol citizens are currently in Berdyansk and the nearest villages.”

“So this mission is helping us and has helped evacuate Mariupol citizens from Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia. That’s very good. It’s absolutely necessary,” he said, noting that 45 buses were evacuated with over of 2,000 citizens, including 710 children.

For those still in Mariupol, one of the most pressing concerns is nutrition, Orlov said, as aid groups including the Red Cross have struggled to reach the town with food and supplies.

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team traveling to Mariupol said on Friday it was unable to reach the besieged town to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians. The team plans to try to make the trip back to the beleaguered city on Saturday.

“I can’t even describe in words what life in Mariupol is like,” he said. Citizens “cannot eat… [it’s] common for us to have three courses, but three courses a week. So we eat on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. So we can’t even eat much.

Mariupol estimates that more than 100,000 citizens are still in the city, all in hiding hoping to stay safe. The official said the citizens were living “like mice”.

“All of them live underground in shelters, bomb shelters in some spaces below, so just to have the possibility to survive, not to be killed by airstrikes, missiles, bombardments,” Orlov said. “They share food with each other, so the typical food for a day is a glass of water with…a cake or two, a glass of soup in the afternoon and also a glass of water and a cake in the evening.”

Orlov said reports of Russians forcibly taking away residents, including children, were true.

“In the territory of Mariupol, I mean mainly the outskirts that Russia temporarily occupies. They are forcing people to evacuate from here and even do deportation,” he said.

Meanwhile, at a local hospital, Orlov says there are up to 2,000 children without parents, a reality that would not have existed before the invasion.

“Before the war, before February 24, we evacuated all the children without parents to the territory under Ukrainian control… in Mariupol we had no children without parents. So if they somehow find 2,000 children without parents, how is that possible? So it’s either their parents were killed by Russians, [or] they separated them,” he added.

Watch the interview: