At least 12 people have been killed and 33 others wounded in a rocket attack on the regional administration building in the southern port city of Mykolaiv in Ukraine, local authorities have said.
Russian forces struck the nine-storey building at 8:45am (05:45 GMT) on Tuesday, destroying its central section from the first to the ninth floor, the State Emergency Service (SES) said on its Telegram channel.
Thirty-three of those wounded were pulled from the rubble, it said, adding that search and rescue operations were continuing.
— DSNS.GOV.UA (@SESU_UA) March 29, 2022
Video and images posted on social media by regional administrator Vitaliy Kim showed thick plumes of smoke billowing in the sky and a massive hole in the building.
Since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, Russian forces have attacked Ukraine’s southern ports including Kherson, Odesa, Mykolaiv and Mariupol as they try to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea and establish a land corridor from Russia to Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized in 2014.
Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Mykolaiv, said the atmosphere in the southern port city was “very tense” following the attack.
“You can see a lot of the windows of the apartments here and in the surrounding area have been blown out,” Dekker said from the scene of the bombing.
“We arrived here about an hour after that strike. There was another air raid siren and people were panicking. We saw rescue workers running away from the site, and then we all went into a shelter,” she said.
“We spoke to one lady who burst into tears, saying ‘I cannot deal with this anymore; it’s constant’.”
“[Ukraine] has held off a ground offensive for weeks but of course, Russia controls the skies and if it’s shelling, from the sea, from the ground, [and carrying out] air strikes … that does put ground troops at a disadvantage,” Dekker said.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour. It denies targeting civilians and did not comment on the strike on Mykolaiv.
Ukraine and the West say Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.