Shocked Civilians Crawl Out of Shelters as Vukovar Surrenders With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt LasserPhotos Available

VUKOVAR, Yugoslavia (AP) _ After 72 horrifying days in a cellar in the demolished Croatian town of Vukovar, Marina Rodic said she did not care if she was dead or alive.

''My life has no meaning any more,'' said Mrs. Rodic, 45, as she crawled of her bombed-out shelter Monday amid reports that Croatian rebels in the town were surrendering after a nearly three-month siege by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and insurgent Serbs.

As she and 11 petrified older people evacuated their underground shelter, brandy-guzzling Serb soldiers seated on a Soviet-built T-55 tank fired their guns in the air to celebrate their victory in the Yugoslav civil war.

The civilians, some too exhausted to walk alone and still painfully getting used to the light, moved slowly past destroyed buildings and along muddy streets.

Sporadic gunfire streaked above their heads. But unlike federal soldiers who escorted them, the group did not twitch or take cover. Instead, they walked as if numb after having survived the battle for Vukovar, a potent symbol of the Serb-Croat civil war that has claimed thousands of lives.

Corpses littered the streets or ruined houses whose walls - if still standing - were riddled with bullet and mortar holes. Roofs were down to bare beams, and burned-out cars and army tanks lined roads strewn with land mines and rubble.

After the Serb-led air and land offensive started on Vukovar three months ago, more than 12,000 people, including 2,000 children, took cover in underground shelters with little food and water. In peacetime, Vukovar had 40,000 inhabitants - about half of them Croats, half Serb.

Mrs. Rodic, a Croat, said she did not know what happened to her husband and a 17-year-old son, both of whom disappeared shortly after she took shelter.

''They could be dead. I don't know if that is not better than being alive after the horror I went through,'' Ms. Rodic said unemotionally.

Breakaway Croatia had hoped its fighters in Vukovar would deal a defeat to the Serb forces as militarily and psychologically decisive as the Soviet victory over Nazi troops at Stalingrad in 1943.

The defeat in Vukovar severely hurt Croatia's nationalist government and its forces. They have already lost more than one-third of Croatian lands to the Serb insurgents who invoke past Croatian persecution in refusing to live in an independent Croatia.

Destruction and horror were visible eveywhere in the Danube River town.

The old Baroque city center, taken from the Croats on Sunday, was virtually leveled, including its museums and castles. The tower of the Roman Catholic cathedral was leaning, and its walls pocked full of holes.

Vukovar had no strategic importance in peacetime. But it become a prize in the Yugoslav civil war that started soon after Croatia declared independence June 25.

The bitterness and sorrow of Mrs. Rodic over the death, hunger and despair of those trapped underground were shared by other Vukovar survivors, whether Serb or Croat.

''This ghostly city should be erased from the map of Yugoslavia, so we all try and forget the atrocities committed here by both sides,'' said Milan Bosnic, a Serb who said he spent 63 days in another cellar.

Speaking tearfully, Bosnic said those trapped underground with him drank rain water and ate old bread to survive. Two of about 25 old people in his cellar had died because they lacked medicine and proper care, he said.

Those who dared leave their shelters in search of food and water never came back, Bosnic said.

''Nobody won in Vukovar. We all lost,'' he said as thousands of civilians, some shaking in shock, headed aimlessly for the outskirts of the town or for makeshift army shelters.