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Fire and Silence: Children's Terror in Russia
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
MAKHACHKALA, Russia, April 12 — Sadness and silence hung heavily in the halls of the Children's General Hospital in this southern Russian city the day after the fire. Small groups of worried parents stood in shadowy corners of the worn lobby waiting for news of their children, who were hanging on to life after a night of terror.
The blaze, in the early morning hours on Thursday, tore through a boarding school for the deaf here where 166 students were housed in a second-floor dormitory.
The most seriously hurt are on the sixth floor of the hospital. The emergency ward was quiet but for the metronomic beeping of the electrocardiogram machine tracing the heartbeat of Ibragim Ramazanov, 13. His thin, bare arms lay straight along his sides like a soldier at attention. A breathing machine was hooked to his small face.
"His lungs, his trachea are severely burned," said Zainulabid Abidov, the head doctor in the emergency ward. "We might be losing him."
Arsen Gasanov, who was recovering in another ward with the less severely injured children, was luckier. He was still sleeping when the flames roared into the second-floor room he shared with 14 other boys. They could not hear the shouts of their teachers below or even the sound of the fire. In the dark they ran, frantically looking for a way out. The smallest ones curled up under their beds, hoping to hide from the fire. (more)