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Survivors suffering from gas poisoning

Moscow, Oct. 26 (Reuters): Many survivors of the Russian theatre siege were suffering from gas poisoning today, supporting reports that security forces who stormed the building first used a strong chemical to neutralise Chechen rebels.

Doctors at one Moscow hospital said 42 people were in a poor condition after being treated for poisoning by an unknown substance, and Germany’s ambassador said two German nationals among the hostages had also breathed in some sort of gas.

“Forty-two have been admitted. Their condition is poor. All were poisoned with an unknown gas, an unknown poison,” Vladimir Ryabinin, a doctor at Moscow’s top emergency Sklifosovsky hospital, said.

“The two German hostages have been bodily unharmed but they are still under the impact of something which could definitely be some gas. They are drowsy,” German ambassador Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz told reporters at the scene.

Eyewitnesses said many of the scores of hostages were unconscious and inert in the arms of security forces bringing them out of the building.

“I saw about 60 people carried out. They were not moving at all. But there were no wounds at all on their bodies,” said Reuters photographer Sergei Karpukhin. “I saw others staggering out of the building but they didn’t seem to know where they were or what they were doing.”

Television footage from inside the theatre immediately after the operation to free the 700 hostages showed two women rebels slumped in the theatre seats, apparently dead.

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