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Russia: A Blogger's Account of the Rescue Effort in Perm

RuNet Echo This post is part of RuNet Echo, a Global Voices project to interpret the Russian language internet. All Posts · Learn more

At least 109 people died and more than 130 were injured Friday night in a fire caused by the ignition of a pyrotechnic display, and in the resulting stampede, at the Lame Horse nightclub in the city of Perm.

In an earlier GV analysis of the citizen and mainstream media coverage of the Perm tragedy, Gregory Asmolov has translated two of the nearly instant updates from one of the users of a popular local forum, Teron.ru, who happened to be outside the nightclub when the fire broke out – and who ended up helping out with the rescue effort:

[...] A user M.R. joined the discussion by publishing several pictures of the rescue efforts. He also wrote that he had helped in the evacuation of victims:

My role was to flip victims over on their sides and bend their knees. I don't know why but it is what the only doctor at that time told us to do.

There are only 50 percent of people alive. I determined that by their eye pupils… I used a flashlight. I did it so the police could help only those who are still alive. [...]

A day later, the same Teron.ru forum user summed up his heartbreaking experiences and observations in a detailed post (RUS) on his LJ blog (http://yakimovmihail.livejournal.com/), parts of which are translated below:

My wife and I were taking a walk outside our house…

First, some noise in the backyard and loud voices. People standing by the emergency exit of LH [the Lame Horse nightclub], some sitting and coughing, spitting. Talking calmly, though, without panic. Then some guy comes running to the fire station nearby, all black, and starts screaming that there are “thousands of people” in there and they are all burning, etc. At first, we thought he was drunk. But the firefighters must have known about the situation by then and were running around like crazy. As a result, everyone who was at the fire station at the time drove out or simply ran to the site of the fire in a minute. I walked to the compartments from which fire trucks were driving out and closed the gates after them. I'd never seen them leaving the gates open like this before.

We went down and walked around the building on 9 Kuybyshev St. to the side where the small park is. Right away, I saw a man in rags, with no hair or eyelashes. Only his eyes were burning, but his whole face was covered with soot. But he was moving normally, walking back and forth. I talked to him. He asked if he was burned badly. But I told him that he looked okay. Then another victim, similar to the first one, came up to me and addressed me by my first name and patronymic. Turned out he was a colleague of mine. He said he didn't remember how he got out. But he, too, asked me how his face was and, in general, how he looked from the outside. (Later, I learned from reports that he was taken to Moscow with 80 percent of his skin damaged.)

But at that point it somehow didn't appear that horrible. The victims were walking back and forth, some were sitting on the ground. Some ten people, all in all. Thick black smoke was coming out from the small windows of LH, but no one was running out from the building itself. And it seemed that it wasn't so horrible after all.

The horrible part started in five minutes or so. The firefighters got dressed, connected to the fire hydrants – which, by the way, were functional and the water was coming. And that's when they began to drag the people out…

This, of course, was impressive…

They carried out the first two women, lay them on the asphalt right by the entrance. Someone began to administer [CPR] to one of them [...]. But then more people were carried out. And were placed right there. The firefighters could no longer walk, had to jump over people…

Two ambulances arrived, and people started to drag the doctors apart, showing the victims to them and demanding that they help them. This was, perhaps, the hardest moment.

Then people began to self-organize. They stopped doing the [CPR]. First, we tore off the red vinyl banners, turned them around and lay them out on the opposite side of the road. Prepared a place to put as many people as possible. [...] A few guys – ten or so – turned up and started dragging people from the entrance (receiving them from the firefighters, obviously), and carrying them to me [...]. I determined a task for myself – to turn the victims over to their sides. This was a recommendation of a doctor, who was the only one there then, and who later left somewhere, too. This, perhaps, was the worst thing about the organization [of the rescue effort] – there was no one to do the initial examination of the victims… :( I had a flashlight, and I was doing it the way I could, relying on my army experience. I was lifting their eyelids and pointing the flashlight into their eyes. The alive/dead results were 50/50. We were trying to somehow separate the dead ones from those who were alive, but those who were carrying [the victims] didn't really obey, of course, and didn't pay attention – they were just dragging [the victims]. [...] Later, though, they started doing things more sensibly – for a person to lie on the side, it is necessary to bend one of [his/her] knees. At first, I was doing this, and then the guys who were carrying [the victims] began to do it properly themselves.

At some point, there was a quiet period, sort of. The firefighters were running back and forth with [firefighting equipment] and there were no new victims. This was when, I guess, ambulances started to arrive. I didn't see them. I just understood that the guys who were carrying [the victims] from the entrance were now yelling that [the victims] should be taken to the ambulances. This is when we needed the flashlight again. I remember that they kept trying to carry away the girl who was lying near me. But I stopped them from doing this because I already knew that she no longer needed to be carried anywhere. And then the police officers showed up and started carrying the people away, too – likely, to the ambulances. They obeyed me for a while even – I used my flashlight to pick out the people for them, who needed to be carried away.

Then they started carrying people from the nightclub again. And everything got mixed up again. Some were taken to the ambulances right away, [...], others were just placed on the road. Again, I guess there were not enough people with flashlights for the initial sorting out [of the victims]. This is very bad, of course.

This was when my part was over. Some people in uniforms showed up and the real rescue began.

And a few more remarks:

[...]

It was bad that many people were drunk, and this, along with the hysteria, did not contribute to the order and organization. This is how it was at the very beginning. These drunk, hysterical people were rushing among the injured and the dead, obviously looking for their relatives. They were turning [the victims] over to their backs. Had to [turn the victims back to their sides] after that. And, perhaps, it wasn't too good to be moving [the victims]. [...]

[...]

It also seemed strange that the firefighters didn't try dragging the people out through the emergency exit in the back of the building. Would have been not as messy this way, perhaps.

[...]

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