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Nurse Describes 'Unspeakable' Horror as Bombs Hit Doctors Without Borders Hospital

A nurse at the trauma center in northern Afghanistan remembers “patients, wounded, crying out, everywhere,” as the bombs fell, killing several of his colleagues.

by Tessa Stuart
Oct 3 2015, 9:15pm

Photo via MSF

Lajos Zoltan Jecs, a nurse at the Doctors Without Borders trauma center in northern Afghanistan that the organization says was hit with multiple bombs early Saturday morning, said he was sleeping in the hospital's safe room when he awoke to the sound of an explosion at around 2am.

Jecs, whose account of the night's events were documented and circulated by Doctors Without Borders — also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF — said he has heard the sound of bombs falling several times over the past week as US and Afghan forces struggled to wrest control of Kunduz back from the Taliban. "This one was different — close and loud," Jecs said.

As the dust settled, Jecs said he and his colleagues were trying to work what happened when, "I heard someone calling my name. It was one of the Emergency Room nurses. He staggered in with massive trauma to his arm. He was covered in blood, with wounds all over his body."

Related: MSF Says Afghan Hospital Was 'Repeatedly Hit' by Bombs in Prolonged Attack

Jecs was shocked — he said at first he couldn't even process what was happening. When he did, he realized they were unprepared to help. "In the safe room, we have a limited supply of basic medical essentials, but there was no morphine to stop his pain. We did what we could."

It was another half an hour before the bombing ceased, he says. He and his supervisor went to look for survivors. They found the hospital bombed out, engulfed in flames. At least 19 people were killed in the attack, including 12 hospital staff members and three children. Another 37 people were seriously wounded.

Photo via MSF

"We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds.

"We looked for some staff that were supposed to be in the operating theater. It was awful. A patient there on the operating table, dead, in the middle of the destruction. We couldn't find our staff," he said. (Several staff members, they would later learn, had escaped the operating theater and found a safe place to shelter nearby.)

Jecs and his superior returned to the office, which he said was "full, patients, wounded, crying out, everywhere." From there, they quickly put together a mass-casualty plan and the doctors and nurses who could began mobilizing to treat the wounded.

Related: 19 Dead After Apparent US Airstrike Hits MSF Hospital in Afghanistan

They tried — and failed — to perform an emergency surgery on one of the hospital's doctors. "He died there on the office table," Jecs said. "The whole situation was very hard. We saw our colleagues dying. Our pharmacist...I was just talking to him last night and planning the stocks, and then he died there in our office."

"These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people... and now they are dead. These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable."

A spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan said the coalition conducted an airstrike at 2:15am on Saturday morning in Kunduz against "individuals threatening the force."

"The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility," Colonel Brian Tribus said, adding that the incident is under investigation.

MSF demanded "a full and transparent investigation," and said that "all indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces."

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