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A participant in the assault tells hisstory
Written by   
, 28 2002
“We did not know what we would see once we got there”
In ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’
Medics had no idea what they would face after the assault
The death toll at the theatrical center on Dubrovka is appalling. Avoiding so many casualties in such a situation is supposed to be the work of security services, medics and rescue workers, and these questions will not soon fade from the public consciousness. ‘NG’ sought answers from one participant in the assault an emergency medical specialist who entered the building right after the commandos. ‘NG’ publishes his story below:
We got the alert about 6:00 am. Wedid not know what we would once we got there. Wedrive up and see the building is still intact. Sowe go over and are shocked: there are piles of bodies at the entrance, just bodies, and they are carrying out more and more of them. Ibend over the first one and feel for a pulse this one is alive!
I go inside the hall from the left side, bottom floor. Inside, most of the people have already pulled from the stalls (main seating area). Theonly people left are those who somehow got mixed up between the seats. Right by practically every militant, there were mostly Chechen women in the hall, is a commando standing with an assault rifle. There was an unpleasant smell and the air was very stale, but Ido not pay it much mind anyway, since people have been living here for three days.
We yank out three or four from the hall. Weare looking between rows, and if we find somebody we go looking for a litter to take him out. Everybody is helping, even the FSB guys that are going through the rows with machine guns. Onthe porch there are people in civilian clothes with syringes. Theyfill them and give injections. Theyare carrying boxes of naloxone (a drug with antitoxic activity that helps restore breathing ‘NG’). Theygive injections, like in combat: right through the clothing.
I did not see hardly anyone who could move on his or her own. Isaw just one girl, who was being led by the hand. Apparently, everybody who could walk even a little was already out before we got there. Weworked on those they took out.
Nobody could even think of what the use of this gas involved. Theyshould have gathered us up an hour before the assault, took away our cell phones and put us in isolation and explained our tasks, and, of course, it would have been ideal to divide the hall in sectors and say: this is your sector, and this is yours. Instead of this we ended up working out plans about how we would enter the building from the outside and what it would look like after an explosion.
I did not see any gunshot wounds at all. Thefatalities were (airway blockages) from inhaling vomit and lolling tongues, and cardiac arrest that simply were not given ‘respirations’ on time. Itwould have been nice to know in advance! Judging from everything, it was due to secrecy, and, maybe, it makes sense that they did not notify anyone, but if only they could have declassified just a tiny bit and given us at least a heads up about what we would run into.At least they could have said that we would have to carry out a large number of unconscious people in arrest (respiratory and cardiac ‘NG’), then it might have turned out slightly different.
Of course, they themselves could not guess how it would go, but then again they did lug around all those boxes of naloxone. Onthe one hand, this was probably the first time such an operation had ever been done anywhere in the world, but, on the other hand, in order to rescue the people they needed a lot of qualified personnel and a plan of action. Wedid not even have enough elementary equipment, such as stretchers. Overat Sheremetyevo airport, for example, there is a big old KrAZ truck full of army-issue stretchers.
Obviously, we could have lost everybody if there had been an explosion, so a 10% fatality rate is probably a good result. Wenever had any joint exercises with the security force commandos, however. Wehave some idea about medical sorting, but in this case we just were not ready. Youcan do it when there are 10, but when there are several hundred and no one is in charge Well, if people had at least been organized, at least did mouth-to-mouth, Ithink it would have been possible to save a lot of them, but this was just one big rush faster, faster, faster!
 
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