It’s taken ten days for the world to learn if anyone survived the bombing of a theatre in Mariupol.
Images filmed from inside the building show people covered in dust, clearly in shock, but alive. Only now have those mobile phone pictures made it to the outside world.
On 16 March a theatre sheltering more than a thousand civilians was bombed in the heavily contested southern Ukrainian city.
The word “children” was clearly marked in the ground outside and was visible from the air.
Pregnant women were sheltering in bombed theatre
For the first time, Sky News has also been told pregnant women who’d been rescued from a bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol had been moved to the theatre for safety.
Seven days later the theatre was hit too.
We spoke to Diana Berg who lived next to the theatre but escaped the city before it was bombed.
“I know that there were pregnant women that were brought from the maternity ward in the third hospital that was bombed the days before,” she says.
“They were brought to the theatre because it was a big building and they put these pregnant women with kids in the dressing rooms for actors. It was in this part that was bombed. They were in the theatre, right at exactly the point where it was hit. That’s what we know.”
Hospital number three in Mariupol was a children’s hospital and maternity ward. Journalists were still in the city when it was hit by a Russian airstrike on 9 March.
Pictures emerged showing injured pregnant women trying to escape for their lives. According to Ms Berg, some of those women were then taken to the theatre.
Until now we haven’t known how many people lost their lives in the theatre attack.
At least 300 lives lost
Mariupol City Council has said according to eyewitnesses at least 300 people lost their lives. It’s not clear how many more may still be buried here.
Ms Berg says there are now so many bodies in Mariupol, they’re not all being buried and body parts hang from trees. Those who are still living this nightmare have little way of being heard.
But British photographer Max Clarke has recently left with new images of the reality people are living.
“A lot of what is happening on this side of the contact line is under reported”, says Mr Clarke. “It’s almost beyond description how devastated that city is.”
“There’s not a single building that’s either unburnt or unbroken. The people are just traumatised and dazed. They’re living without electricity or food or heat. The temperatures have only recently risen but it’s been sub-zero temperatures until last week.”
The city lost almost all power weeks ago, there’s no internet, virtually no phone signal. The information flowing in and out of the city is almost non-existent.
Trapped in living hell
People who’ve managed to leave Mariupol have told Sky News they didn’t know whether the country was under Russian control or not until they escaped.
He added: “Bodies are largely being buried by now but there are still some. You can certainly smell those that are inaccessible by rubble. There are dogs feeding on chunks of human bone. Bits of people. There are freshly dug graves everywhere.”
“There are burnt-out vehicles and charred vehicles with the charred remains of their drivers still there. We saw one blackened body when we drove in and the next day it was missing limbs and had various red exposed flesh because the dogs had been eating him overnight. It’s pretty hellish.”
The scenes he’s describing are unthinkable.
The people trapped in Mariupol can’t speak for themselves right now – but they need saving from this living hell.