The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wiser after ’93, hospitals rise to crisis
A blast victim in a hospital. (Reuters)

Mumbai, Aug. 25: As the number of those dead rises, the crowds become more clamorous. The authorities have to close the huge wooden doors from time to time to keep anxious relatives away.

For the doctors and nurses at JJ Hospital, it is a déjà vu that they did not want, but were prepared for. They have the experience of the Bombay blasts 10 years ago to thank.

JJ Hospital witnessed a gory sight, with mutilated bodies and blood splattered all around. Some of the victims of the blasts were admitted with splinters all over their bodies.

At ward no. 18, a male ward with about 20 people injured in today’s blasts, one man has just died. His head is swathed in bandages through which blood is still oozing, his right arm is dangling from the side of the bed, blood dripping from the fingers.

“His name we couldn’t figure out. He is one of the two unknowns in the ward. He was brought in a very critical state. It is like the ’93 blasts,” says Nalini Angre, the nurse in charge of the ward.

“The injuries were more serious then (during the ’93 blasts) and there were far too many to take care of. But then also most of them were brought to JJ,” she says.

In the ward lies a man who is severely injured, but cannot get over the irony of his cow running away. In the first bed, a boy around 18 lies writhing in pain, unable to speak. Across from his bed, a man tries to sit up, his printed shirt wet with blood.

At the door, a woman stands with the help of two nurses. She cannot speak.

The woman has searched all the other wards for husband Jhaggu, but could not find him. He is not here, too. She has looked.

Today, 51 patients were admitted to JJ Hospital, 30 of whom died. Most of those who were injured have been identified, named and classified according to their age and religion. Most of the dead, however, are yet to be identified. Two of the patients at JJ are in a critical state and are to undergo surgery.

The rest of the injured are at two other hospitals. Of these, 47 were admitted at GT Hospital, where some of the Mumbadevi blast victims were also admitted. The victims of the blast at the Gateway of India were taken to St George’s Hospital.

“At St George’s Hospital, 37 people were admitted and 14 people were brought dead,” says minister of state for medical education Suresh Shetty.

“There is no lack of medicine now,” says Dr Gaurishankar Sarathe, head of the anaesthesia department at JJ.

“We were prepared after the blasts 10 years ago. Mumbai being prone to disasters, the government has set up a 25-bed critical care unit on which it spent Rs 6 crore. It has sanctioned Rs 2 crore more for this recently.”

JJ dean Dr G.V. Daver added that the hospital had enough resources to treat the patients streaming in after the blasts. “There is no lack of dressing material or blood,” he said. “People have been queuing up to donate blood.”

“The staff here was also given a course in disaster management by Israeli doctors,” says Dr Sarathe proudly. “About 100 doctors were made available, including surgeons and anaesthetists, after the blasts today.”

However, he does not know how to handle the crowd, which is increasing in number and clamouring to be let in. Some are being allowed in from time to time.

The hospital staircase is a river of people. There is hardly any place to stand in the corridors outside the wards.

Hyder Ali sits in the corridor worrying for Mohammad Fazal, his 19-year-old nephew who was hurt in the leg. The doctors have not told him how serious the injury is.

But he speaks of another fear — that of living in a city that is seeing a blast every month. “Humey khud dar ho gaya (We are scared),” he says. “It can happen anywhere, any time.”

His neighbour, who has come with him, talks about another fear. He thinks there will be a backlash against his community.

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