Attack on Luhansk school shelter: 60 people feared death in Russian bombing, Ukrainian official says

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said the school building was destroyed.

“The explosion occurred inside the building. Rescuers (are) dismantling the debris as quickly as possible. The chances of finding (someone still) alive are very small. There were 90 people inside the building. ‘school building; 27 survived, 60 people most likely died, ”Hayday said.

Hayday said a Russian airstrike hit the school in the village of Bilohorivka, which is about seven miles from the first line of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukrainearound 4:37 pm (9:37 am ET) on Saturday, causing fires to erupt that took nearly four hours to go out.

Photos shared by the scene showed rescue personnel searching the smoking ruins of the school building.

Survivors of the bombing described their harrowing experience in interviews with CNN.

“I was knocked to the ground by a slab, folded into a ball,” said a man with a bandage on his nose and forehead, who preferred not to say his name for privacy reasons. “Then another explosion, small stones fell on us. Darkness.”

She continued: “There was a woman in our room screaming the whole time. She was pulled out and screaming the whole time. I told her, ‘Don’t scream’. We couldn’t hear anything.”

“They started digging,” he said. “I went out. I was like a drunkard, lost.”

The school video shared by Hayday on Telegram shows a building that was completely razed in the attack.

Another survivor, Sergiy, said he was in the school basement when the bomb hit and that all three floors of the building collapsed “to the ground”.

“We didn’t understand anything,” said Sergiy. “We were inside. Suddenly, everything fell apart. Darkness. That’s all.”

Yevgen, meanwhile, described a desperate escape.

“I was the first ever to start climbing,” he said. “I was raking up bricks and throwing them away. There were planks and planks of wood. The locals who weren’t helped in the basement and used a pipe to tear off those planks.”

Survivors said that among the neighbors they took refuge with were several elderly grandparents.

“Imagine what they bombed,” said Sergiy. “An ordinary village with only retirees and children.”

Western countries reacted to the bombing with indignation. British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said on Sunday she was “horrified”, adding: “Deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure amounts to war crimes. We will ensure that Putin’s regime is held accountable.”

Russian forces have struck civilians on numerous occasions on the run or asylum since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Schools, kindergartens and hospitals have all been targeted by Russia, according to to the United Nations.

Amnesty International said on Friday that Russian forces “face justice for a series of war crimes” committed in the northwestern region of Kiev, following an investigation conducted by the group in Ukraine.

The investigation, based “on dozens of interviews and extensive review of material evidence”, documented “illegal airstrikes on Borodyanka and extrajudicial executions in other towns and villages including Bucha, Andriivka, Zdvyzhivka and Vorzel”.

The fighting in Luhansk has been raging for months, and particularly since Russia refocused its invasion of the eastern Donbas region.

Hayday told Ukrainian television on Saturday, hours before the school bombing, that the situation was difficult.

“The greatest efforts made by the enemy are to break through in Popasna and in the direction of Severodonetsk and Voievodivka. That’s where they have deployed most of their troops and equipment,” he said.

“That’s where the most bombings and rockets and air strikes are constant – it’s just a terrible situation. Our guys are holding on, we’re waiting for help, reinforcements,” he said.

This story has been updated with more information.

CNN’s Martin Goillandeau, Radina Gigova and Devan Cole contributed to this report.