• The San Juan Daily Star

New worries in Mariupol as sanitation deteriorates

By Erika Solomon

A dearth of medicine. A power grid ablaze. Water flooding through mass graves that has raised the fear of diseases like cholera.

As hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are being taken out of Mariupol after their surrender of its besieged steel plant, the city’s mayor made a plea to the world Wednesday to help the 100,000 civilians who remain inside the Russian-controlled southern port city under rapidly deteriorating sanitation and health conditions.

Although several humanitarian corridors have been negotiated to help civilians evacuate, the city’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, called for new international efforts to create opportunities for safe passage for the thousands who still want to flee.

“We have thousands of residents — most of them have been calling the hotline of the municipality and they were begging to be sent, begging to have evacuation,” he said, speaking via online video conference to journalists.

Boichenko cited concerns over the potential spread of cholera, dysentery and other epidemiological crises because of rapidly worsening public health conditions. Russian forces occupying the city, while trying to repair the public water system, had accidentally caused flooding in the streets, he said. That water now risks flowing through the mass graves dug for the more than 20,000 people he said had been killed there.

“In the summer,” he said, “this will be a very big problem.”

World Health Organization officials cited similar concerns Tuesday.

Boichenko also said that summer rains raised the risk of disease spreading at a time when doctors have little means to tackle them. “The city today has no conditions for providing health care,” he said. “There’s no medicine.”

Power is still not working in the city because of another accident that he blamed on Russian forces. “Essentially,” he said, parts of the power system “were burned down, because they didn’t test the power grid, and they caused a fire.”

The mayor said he could not share any new information on the process of evacuating the Azovstal steel plant, where an undisclosed number of fighters remain. The factory was the Ukrainians’ last bastion in the city, and Russia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that hundreds more of the fighters had surrendered to Moscow’s forces.

The ministry did not specify where the latest batch of fighters had been taken, but Ukraine’s General Staff said earlier that its soldiers had been transported to two Ukrainian towns that are under Russian control.

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