In the debris-strewn rooms of the bombed-out house, the incessant ringing of a telephone punctuates the crackle of shattered glass shattering underfoot as police place a body bag.
But the call will never be answered. The owner of the phone is crouched lifeless on the floor of his house, in a front room where the explosion of a missile – one of several to hit this town in eastern Ukraine – find her.
The missiles that slammed into Pokrovsk on Saturday evening and into the early hours of Sunday were part of a barrage of attacks on towns in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine that caused at least 10 dead on Saturday, according to the governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko. They came as Ukraine continued a counter-offensive just to the north in the Kharkiv region, pushing Russian forces to withdraw from key areas.
Six of the dead were in Pokrovsk, Mayor Ruslan Trebushkin said in a post on Telegram. The industrial city about 40 kilometers from the front line had already been hit by missiles twice, in May and July, but never before by so many missiles in one night. A flash lit up the night sky as a detonation echoed through the city in the second of six explosions. An ambulance raced through the dark streets and flames rose from a fire started by the missile strikes.
At least three of those who died were killed when one of the missiles struck between a row of small houses and nearby train tracks, collapsing part of a nearby abandoned building, leaving one house on fire and severely damaging several others.
Oleksandr Zaitsev, 67, was standing quietly outside his friend’s house when police arrived. His friend’s wife had called her husband constantly since the strike, he said, but no one answered.
The windows of the house were smashed, the walls were pockmarked by shrapnel and the front door blew off its hinges. Inside, police gently rolled Zaitsev’s friend into a black body bag.
Next door, Yevhenia Butkova, 47, stood dumbfounded in the center of her living room, trying to calm her two agitated pet dogs. Blood stained the couch where she and her husband were watching TV when the first missile hit. He was recovering in a hospital on Sunday morning after doctors removed shards of glass from his wounds, she said.
Pieces of debris from the ceiling littered the floor throughout the house, the entrance to which was reduced to a jumble of splintered wood, plaster, glass and brick. One of the plywood boards the couple had placed over their windows for protection had been blown into the garden. But a combination of that and the plastic they had put on the glass probably saved their lives, Butkova said.
“Everything was calm in Pokrovsk, it was very unexpected,” she said. “It was horrible.” Further down the row of two-story houses, an elderly couple swept the rubble and glass from their small porch, dried blood still streaking their faces.
Mariia Trutko, 85, and her husband Oleksii Maksymenko, 75, were sleeping when they were awakened by the explosion.
“I can’t hear anything without my hearing aid, and then it hit so hard I heard,” said Maksymenko, a retired coal miner. “It all flew. … I started bleeding, so we got up to see what it was, and then there was another one: boom!” Their bed was littered with jagged shards of glass and plaster from the roof that covered them both, Trutko said. A large square piece of glass lay on the pillow, and bloodstains stained the floor.
“Oh my God, we could never imagine going through something like this at such an advanced age,” Maksymenko said.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)