Image ID 2J6R5KK Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol 03052022 CREDIT REUTERS,Alamy Stock Photo.jpg
Rescuers have been working to evacuate civilians from tunnels beneath the steelworks in the port city of Mariupol for several days (Pictures: Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo).
Ukraine

Women, children and the elderly evacuated from Mariupol steel mill

The latest evacuees followed roughly 500 others who were allowed to leave the plant and other parts of the city in recent days.

Image ID 2J6R5KK Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol 03052022 CREDIT REUTERS,Alamy Stock Photo.jpg
Rescuers have been working to evacuate civilians from tunnels beneath the steelworks in the port city of Mariupol for several days (Pictures: Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo).

All women, children and older adults have been evacuated from a Mariupol steel mill long besieged by Russian forces, Ukraine's deputy prime minister said.

Making the announcement, Iryna Vereshchuk said: "The president's order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed."

She did not elaborate any further with any more details.

The Russian news agency Tass had reported another 50 evacuated from the plant on Saturday.

The latest evacuees followed roughly 500 others who were allowed to leave the plant and other parts of the city in recent days.

Evacuating civilians from the plant has drawn the world's attention, with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross trying to organise departures.

In recent days, fighters inside the plant had described bringing out small groups of civilians who had been hiding for weeks.

The fighters issued a statement via social media saying both they and the Russians have used a white flag system to halt fighting in order to get civilians out.

Watch: A former Royal Marine in Ukraine has said Ukrainian soldiers inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol "know it's the last stand".

But Russian forces have intensified fire on the steel mill in recent days with mortars, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from the sea, making evacuation operations difficult.

It remains unclear what will happen to the Ukrainian fighters there, both those still in combat and the hundreds believed to be wounded.

In recent days the Ukrainian government has been approaching a variety of international organisations to try to guarantee them safe passage.

The escape of the civilians puts new pressure on Ukraine to find a way out for the fighters, who have vowed not to surrender.

Already Russian forces had probed the plant and even reached into its warren of tunnels, according to Ukrainian officials.