Russian forces shelled the flood-stricken city of Kherson on Thursday, striking close to an evacuation point, only hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the city to witness the aftermath of the destruction of a dam on the Dnipro River earlier this week.
Hundreds of people who were gathered near an evacuation point at Ship Square, in the heart of the city, scrambled for cover when explosions rang out, witnesses said, describing multiple strikes in and around the square.
Volunteers, medics, emergency workers and rescue teams involved in coordinating aid efforts have been meeting on higher ground near the square, which is itself flooded but is being used as an evacuation point because it is a known landmark.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said that eight people were injured in the shelling near Ship Square, including two employees of the State Emergency Service and a police officer. “Information about the dead has not yet been received,” it added.
The explosions hit at around 2 p.m. local time. “Leave, leave,” one man shouted, according to a witness, and people tried to find shelter. A young man held a bandage on the wounded head of an elderly man, blood dripping down his arm as he tried to offer words of comfort, witnesses said.
Serhiy Ludensky, a volunteer from an animal care center, was on a boat near Ship Square when the shelling hit a building close by, he said. He said he could hear people screaming. “There was nowhere to hide,” he said. The people on the boat managed to break down the door of a flooded dormitory to wait for the explosions to stop.
It was one of several areas in the city of Kherson targeted by the Russian forces on Thursday, according to Ukrainian officials and witnesses.
A New York Times photographer was on a boat in the flooded Korabel neighborhood of the city when he saw at least two waves of shelling hit nearby, around 10 minutes apart. The second attack hit a barge near a bridge that links the island neighborhood with the mainland.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other’s forces of shelling areas in the Kherson region as rescue efforts entered a third day on Thursday.
Brendan Hoffman contributed reporting.