Grieving families awaited news of loved ones into the night. A mobile phone somewhere among the charred personal belongings rang and rang, with no one to answer. The bodies — more than 50 in all — were sheathed in white and carted away near a slide and a swing set in a children’s playground.
Thursday’s strike in the tiny village of Hroza, where the population had dwindled from about 500 before the war, killed about one in six of the town’s remaining 300 residents, Ukrainian officials said.
By Friday morning, the number of the dead was 52, and six others were injured, Oleh Synyehubov, the regional military administrator, said on the Telegram messaging app.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly address, appeared to struggle to find the words to denounce the attack, one of the deadliest on civilians in recent months and all the more devastating because it struck people gathered at a memorial service. To call it “beastly,” he said, would be an affront to beasts.
“It was not a blind attack. People had gathered there for a memorial meal, a Christian memorial meal. Who could launch a missile at them? Who?” he asked.
Search and rescue at the site of the attack, which Mr. Zelensky said had hit a grocery store and a cafe, concluded shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday, according to Ukraine’s state emergency services. Among those killed was a 6-year-old boy.
The village is 23 miles from the front line but without any obvious military or industrial targets in the vicinity. Ukraine’s internal affairs minister, Ihor Klymenko, said that a preliminary investigation had indicated that the attack involved an Iskander missile, which has a relatively short range.
By late afternoon on Thursday, 29 of the dead had been identified, according to the state emergency services. Ukraine’s national police said DNA testing would be needed to confirm the identities of some of the dead because of the extent of their injuries.
By the evening, a couple who had waited by the wreckage through hours of rescue work gave up and walked away from the scene, not knowing whether their family member was among the dead.