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101 civilians evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal plant: UN

101 civilians evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal plant: UN
May 3, 2022 Web Desk

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (Reuters) - The UN and Red Cross said Tuesday 101 civilians were evacuated from the tunnels of the Azovstal plant in Ukraine's battered city of Mariupol, but warned that others remain trapped.

"I am pleased and relieved to confirm that 101 civilians have successfully been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol," Osnat Lubrani, the UN's Ukraine humanitarian coordinator said in statement.

It was the first completed civilian evacuation from the giant Azovstal steel factory, where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have for weeks been trapped, hiding as Russian forces besieged and pummelled the city.

Lubrani said "101 women, men, children and older persons could finally leave the bunkers below the Azovstal steelworks and see the daylight after two months."

The evacuees were brought to the central city of Zaporizhzhia, which is under Ukrainian control.

The joint UN and Red Cross operation -- agreed after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Moscow and Kyiv -- lasted five days.

Both organisations warned other civilians remain trapped underneath Azovstal, calling for more "urgent" evacuations.

AFP saw dozens, including a small baby, pour off buses to a reception centre in Zaporizhzhia. Some had bandaged arms.

"There was a moment we lost hope. We thought everyone forgot about us," evacuee Anna Zaitseva, holding her six-month-old baby boy Svyatoslav, told AFP.

Lubrani warned there "may be more civilians who remain trapped" and said the UN was ready to return to the besieged plant to bring them to safety.

Another 58 people joined the evacuation convoy from the city of Mangush, outside Mariupol, she added.

She said evacuees were receiving medical and psychological support, with many speaking of the "hell" they experienced.

Some family members were trapped in different parts of the sprawling Azovstal plant, and were reunited during the evacuation, bringing "tears of joy," she said.

The Red Cross, which confirmed the successful evacuation in a separate statement, also said more evacuations were "urgently" required.

While it said it was an "immense relief" that the 101 civilians were out of the plant, "the Red Cross has not forgotten the people who are still there".

It vowed not to "spare any effort to reach them."