Azovstal evacuee went to sleep every night in steel works basement believing she wouldn't wake up

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports on the evacuees who've escaped after days holed up in the dark in the giant steel plant

A woman who has reached safety after being trapped in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for two months has spoken of the conditions endured by the hundreds of civilians who sought shelter there as it came under bombardment from Russian forces.

Yelena Tsybulchenko was part of the first convoy of civilians to escape from the decimated Mariupol steel works, which is reportedly being stormed by Russian forces in the wake of the partially successful UN-led evacuations.

After arriving with other evacuees in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday, she recalled the terror of waiting in fear of Russian attacks in the dark basement below the Soviet-era industrial works.

"You can't imagine how scary it is when you sit in the shelter, in a wet and damp basement, which is bouncing, shaking," Ms Tsybulchenko said.

"When we were able to go outside, I saw the sun on Monday for the second time in two months."

A man looks at his daughter as they arrive to a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia. Credit: AP

She told of how her faith gave her strength while Russian missiles were targeting areas around the steel plant, where it is claimed 200 civilians remain in the last Ukrainian stronghold in the port city of Mariupol.

"Every night we went to sleep and thought about whether we would survive and wake up - it was possible that we wouldn't wake up at all," the evacuee added.

"We were praying to God that missiles fly over our shelter, because if it hit the shelter, all of us would be done."

Her comments come after the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, which is holed up in the plant, said on Tuesday that Russian forces have started to attack the facility again.

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The move comes almost two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered its military not to storm the plant, but rather block it off.

Asked about the reports in Ukrainian media that the huge steelworks was being stormed, Sviatoslav Palamar told the Associated Press that “it is true.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Mariupol patrol police chief Mykhailo Vershinin was quoted by Ukrainian television as saying that the Russian military “have started to storm the plant in several places.”

Soldiers are seen helping civilians leave the Mariupol plant

Despite the threat of violence, some of those who were rescued from the steel works chose to stay in the besieged city as they were anxious about the wellbeing of family members.

The UN humanitarian chief in Ukraine says about 30 people who came out of the Avostal steel plant stayed as they were “horrified” at the city's destruction and first wanted to see if their loved ones were still alive.

The evacuees who did leave the southern port city arrived in Zaporizhzhia, around 140 miles north-west of Mariupol, on Tuesday.

Footage captured some of the exhausted evacuees, including young children and pensioners, exiting buses in the car park of a shopping centre in Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia.

The first convoy of civilians to escape the steel plant reached Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday

Hospitals were poised to treat people for anything from burns and fractures to malnutrition and respiratory infections, as volunteers prepared for the arrival of the convoy.

Dr Dorit Nizan, World Health Organization Incident Manager for Ukraine, said some people had already arrived from villages near Mariupol without any assistance.

Some had minor injuries, but the toll of their experiences left many with mental health challenges, she said.

A woman hugs relatives as she arrives in Zaporizhzhia with people who fled from Mariupol. Credit: AP

The five-day rescue operation was coordinated by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which said families and individuals not trapped in the steel works joined the convoy of buses as it left the besieged plant for safety.

Despite some success in the evacuations, officials have said they would have hoped to have been able to rescue more desperate civilians from the steel works.

Pascal Hundt, who heads the Ukraine office of the ICRC, said some people simply chose not to leave, and he didn’t know why - but suspected fear about continued fighting played a role.

“We are today with a mixed feeling. We have done everything to help these people to basically leave the place where they were - to leave hell,” he told reporters from Kyiv.

“But we would have hoped that much more people would be able to join the convoy and to get out of hell.”

Hryhorii hugs his wife Oksana as they reunited in a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia. Credit: AP

According to Denys Shlega, commander of the 12th Operational Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard who is also currently at Azovstal, 200 civilians including two children remain at the plant.

While humanitarian focus has largely been around Mariupol, Ukrainian infrastructure is being targeted elsewhere around the country.

At least 10 people have died and 15 left injured after Russian forces shelled a coke plant in the city of Avdiivka, in eastern Ukraine, according to the regional governor.

"The Russians knew exactly where they were aiming. The workers had just finished their shift and were waiting at a bus stop for a bus to take them home from the factory," Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Elsewhere, Russian strikes are reported to have targeted Lviv on Tuesday evening, as four distinct explosions could be heard from the downtown of the western Ukrainian city.

Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said the strikes damaged three power substations, knocking electricity off in parts of Lviv, which is near the Polish border.

Two pump stations also were without power, affecting water supply in the city, he added.

Smoke rises after a Russian missile strike in Lviv. Credit: AP

There have been a number of missile strikes around Lviv since the start of the war, with most of them hitting military or logistical targets.

Russia's defence ministry claimed that drones, missiles and ammunition supplied to Ukraine by Western countries had been destroyed after its forces struck a military airfield near the port of Odesa with missiles.

Reports of the attack on Tuesday came as the Russian military said its artillery has hit over 400 Ukrainian targets- including two fuel depots - over the last day. These claims could not be independently verified.