Around 800 people are hiding in several bomb shelters underneath the Azot chemical factory in Severodonetsk, which has been targeted by Russian missile attacks, said Serhiy Hayday, the head of Luhansk region military administration.
Hayday told CNN Thursday that local residents have sought shelter in the Soviet-era bomb shelters under the factory.
“There are locals there, who were asked to leave the city,” Hayday said. “But they refused. There are also children there, but not many of them.”
In a separate update on Thursday, regional Ukrainian officials said the Russians have again fired on Azot factory and “hit one of the administrative buildings and a warehouse where methanol was stored,” although it’s unclear how much methanol remained there.
The Ukrainians still maintain control of the Severodonetsk industrial zone, the statement said, one of the remaining parts of the city Russia has not taken.
"Most" of Severodonetsk, one of the last cities to hold out in Luhansk, has been taken by Russia, Hayday said earlier.
Hayday said a Russian airstrike hit a tank of nitric acid at the Azot factory on Tuesday. Images that day showed a thick orange-colored cloud of smoke rising from the area. But Hayday said the people sheltering under the factory were not in danger.
“Thank God nothing threatened the people,” Hayday told CNN on Thursday. “As (the cloud) went up and moved at once, there’s no deadly danger.”
Hayday said that the factory is privately-owned, and the owners say there are only small amounts of chemicals left at the plant.
Hayday added that the factory is not significant from a military point of view, therefore “Azot is definitely not Azovstal” -- referring to the steel plant in Mariupol which Russia took after a weeks-long siege.