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 bags 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 death toll had climbed to 52, with six other people injured, Oleh Synyehubov, the regional military administrator, said on the Telegram messaging app. A 6-year-old boy was among the dead, he said.
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.
But specialists continued to work at the scene on Friday, dismantling the rubble and inspecting the site, according to Mr. Synyehubov, who said they were finding more remains. As they worked, people came to lay flowers and light candles. Three bouquets of red roses were placed next to a small brown teddy bear.
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.