In Mariupol, the ravaged southeastern Ukrainian port city now under Russian occupation, fears have shifted from relentless bombardment to deteriorating sanitary conditions: sewage seeping into drinking water and fears of a cholera outbreak.
On Monday, one of the city's exiled local officials said that Russian officials now in control of Mariupol were considering imposing a quarantine in the city, where decomposing corpses and garbage were contaminating drinking water, putting remaining residents at risk of cholera and other diseases.
“There are talks about quarantine. The city is being quietly closed," said mayoral adviser Petro Andriushchenko, a reliable source of information from residents remaining in the city.
“The city has really turned into one with corpses everywhere,” Andriushchenko said on national television. “They are piled. The occupiers cannot cope with burying them even in mass graves. There is not enough capacity even for this.”
CNN could not independently verify Andriushchenko’s claims.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alarm about the potential for a cholera outbreak in Mariupol and has pre-positioned vaccines in Dnipro, but it is not clear how they would get to residents. Cholera, an infection that causes acute diarrhea, is linked to inadequate access to clean water and kills tens of thousands around the world every year, according to WHO.
Dr. Dorit Nitzan, WHO Europe's emergencies director, who visited Ukraine last month, said that the hygienic situation in Mariupol was a huge hazard. “We got information that there are swamps actually in the streets, and the sewage water and drinking water are getting mixed,” Dr. Nitzan said on May 17 in the capital Kyiv.
Andriushchenko said that it was "difficult to convey" how grim the situation had become in Mariupol, with natural water sources in the city waning as warmer months arrive and Russian evacuations stopping altogether.
“You can enter the city with a residence permit in Mariupol. But this is a one-way ticket, because you cannot leave," he said. "Of all the possible scenarios to fight the epidemic, in our opinion, Russia has chosen, as always, the most cynical one -- just to close the people in the city and leave everything as it is: Whoever survives, survives.”
The deputy mayor of Mariupol, Serhiy Orlov, who is not in Mariupol either, said Tuesday that he believes around 150,000 people remain in the city out of a pre-invasion population of more than 400,000, with a further 30,000 to 40,000 in surrounding suburbs.