After deadly shells, sorrow and chaos at Donetsk hospital

Simon Valmary
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A pro-Russian rebel walks in the hospital of Donetsk's Tekstylnyk district after it was hit by shelling, on Febuary 4, 2015

A pro-Russian rebel walks in the hospital of Donetsk's Tekstylnyk district after it was hit by shelling, on Febuary 4, 2015 (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Why the hospital? Why their neighbourhood? Residents of the Tekstylnyk district in east Ukraine rebel stronghold Donetsk have only tears and unanswered questions after a barrage of shells killed four people.

Miner Alexander, 60, and his wife were waiting for their son when a mortar shell hit the bottom of the steps leading to Hospital Number 27 as he came out after a check-up.

"The blast threw him against the wall. The shrapnel killed him," Alexander told AFP, the ground around the impact site torn up.

"When we got to him he was still breathing a little."

"Why didn't they kill me instead?" sobs the dead man's mother. "I can't believe it, I can't believe it."

A friend takes her by the arm to console her, telling her in a resigned voice that "we can't do anything."

The bereaved mother stumbles, suddenly feeling unsteady on her feet.

"But you've got a hole!" the friend says, pointing to the side of her black overcoat.

She opens her coat and finds a bloodstain, just under her lung, and is swiftly whisked away.

She cannot go to the hospital just a few steps away, however, because inside chaos reigns.

The windows were all blown in, covering the floor in a carpet of shattered glass, broken pieces of wood and overturned furniture. A telephone rings, but no one answers.

"They hit in front, behind, everywhere -- the children's play area, the shops," says resident Denis Gladkov.

- 'Went to buy water' -

A block of flats around 400 metres behind the hospital was also hit.

Two men were struck down at the foot of the building, whose windows were shattered eight stories up.

A woman quickly covers the bodies with a sheet.

"Should I take this to his wife?" she asks of the bag of shopping one of the men was carrying.

A man wearing a woollen hat watches the scene from his porch.

"We don't have any water at home, he went to buy some water," he explains, then adds: "He was my father."

"Is my father a terrorist?" he cries, railing against "Europe which raised the Ukrainian fascist movement."

"Why is everyone silent about all this?" asks a crying woman, pointing to the bodies and the shell of a burnt-out car.

- Shockwave threw me -

Behind them, people are bringing down buckets filled with rubble from the devastation in the flats.

"I was resting with my wife when I heard the first explosion," said Dmitry Kursky, 28.

"It went quiet so I looked out the window and saw the hospital's blown-out windows. Then there was a second blast and the shockwave threw me back inside."

Like everyone here, the young man doesn't understand what just happened.

"There's no weapons, no soldiers here, just homes," he says, adding that things had been calm in recent days.

"The last time we were hit was on January 24."