Tragedy through rescuer’s eyes

Emergency Ministry staff arrived at Oktyabrskaya station just three minutes after receiving information on the explosion. The Head of Fire-Fighting Search-and-Rescue Unit #11 of Minsk’s Moskovsky District Emergency Department, Mikhail Tarasevich, tells us how victims were rescued

We received information on the explosion at about 6pm. Our unit is located not far from the Oktyabrskaya metro station, near the House of the Government, so we were among the first to arrive on the scene. I immediately ordered that the fire hose be placed by the escalator, as we’d been initially informed that something had happened there. Afterwards, I took two fire-fighters from my unit inside, carrying masks for victims. We met people halfway, many of whom bore bloodstained clothes and black faces.

We entered the hall easily and saw no smoke — only dust in the air. We put on our gas masks but, a minute later (on going downstairs by the escalator) took them off. It was hard to breathe, yet possible.

I won’t tell you what I saw on the platform, as it was so awful. Never before have I witnessed such a situation. However, I had no time to show emotions. We acted as if it were a training session: without delay.

The victims’ injuries were of various degrees of gravity. People were shouting and some were crying.

A couple of minutes later, other rescuers arrived, hurrying to us with stretchers. We placed an elderly man upon one. It’s difficult for me to recollect his appearance; I only remember his brown jacket. Fighters from my unit took him out.

The wounded were on the floor. Initially, we lacked enough stretchers and, to save time, I entered a carriage and pulled out the backs of the seats to use as stretchers. To lift them, carrying an injured person, five or six men were needed. Everyone worked together: rescuers, police and ordinary passengers.

I didn’t realise the scale of this tragedy immediately — only the next morning, as I watched the TV news, seeing everything from an outside view. You know, I don’t want to appear cruel, but I would strangle the rascals who inflicted this upon my city with my own hands.

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