Dozens feared dead after Russia bombed school Ukrainians were sheltering in, official says

Serhi Heidi, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said the school building was destroyed.

“The explosion happened inside the building. (Rescuers) are dismantling the rubble as quickly as possible. Chances of finding (anyone still) alive are very slim. There were 90 people inside the school building; 27 survived, probably 60 died,” he said. Heidi.

Heidi said a Russian airstrike hit the school in the village of Belhorivka, which is about seven miles from the front lines of the front. Ongoing conflict in eastern UkraineAt about 4:37 p.m. (9:37 a.m. ET) on Saturday, causing fires that took nearly four hours to extinguish.

Pictures shared from the scene showed rescuers searching the burning rubble of the school building.

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

“I was struck by a slab—bending into a ball,” said a man with a bandage over his nose and forehead, who preferred not to be named due to privacy concerns. “Then another explosion, little rocks fell on us. Darkness.”

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

“They started digging,” he said. “I got out. I was like a drunk man – lost.”

A video of the school shared by Hayday on Telegram shows a building completely destroyed by the attack.

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

“We didn’t understand anything,” said Sergey. “We were inside. Once, it all fell off. It was dark. That’s it.”

Meanwhile, Yevgen described a desperate escape.

“I was the first to start climbing,” he said. “I was picking up bricks and throwing them outside. There were planks and planks. The locals who weren’t downstairs helped and they used a pipe to tear up those boards.”

Survivors said that among the neighbors they were sheltering with were many elderly grandparents.

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

Western countries responded to the bombing with anger. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Sunday she was “horrified”, adding: “The deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure amounts to war crimes. We will ensure that the Putin regime is held accountable.”

Russian forces have conducted strikes while fleeing or harboring civilians on numerous occasions since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia targeted all schools, nurseries and hospitals, according to to the United Nations.

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

The investigation, which was based on “dozens of interviews and a comprehensive review of physical evidence,” documented “unlawful air strikes on Borodinka, and extrajudicial executions in other towns and villages including Bucha, Andreivka, Zdvijevka and Forzel.”

Fighting has raged in Luhansk for months, especially since Russia refocused its invasion on the eastern Donbass region.

Heidi told Ukrainian television, Saturday, hours before the school bombing, that the situation is difficult.

“The greatest effort made by the enemy was the penetration of Popasna and the direction of Severodonetsk and Vojvodivka. They deployed the largest amount of their forces and equipment,” he said.

“This is where the greatest number of missiles, rockets and air strikes are constant – it’s just a horrific situation. Our men are holding on, we are waiting for help, reinforcements,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Martin Guilando, Radina Jegova, and Devan Cole contributed to this report.