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Minsk Bombing: From The Clothing Of The Dead, The Rings Of Unanswered Phones


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WATCH: In Minsk, one day after a deadly subway bombing, Belarusians mourn (video by RFE/RL's Belarus Service).


Authorities in Belarus have begun the task of identifying the 12 people killed in the April 11 explosion at a subway station in central Minsk.

Meanwhile, health officials have suggested the death toll may climb as those wounded in the explosion succumb to their injuries. There are currently 26 patients in critical care, many of whom lost limbs or were badly burned in the blast.

One of them, Marina Shubich, a fifth-year university student from the city of Mogilev, spent hours buried under the rubble, undiscovered even as Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka paid an official visit to lay flowers at the site, accompanied by his 6-year-old son. The "Nasha Niva" opposition newspaper reported that Shubich was finally retrieved after being buried for nearly five hours, and was so badly disfigured a friend was able to identify her only by her clothing.

More than 200 people were injured. They range in age from 2 to 75.

Nine of those killed have been identified so far. The youngest, 21-year-old Raman Kaptyukh, is the the son of Belarusian Olympic athlete and former discus world champion Vasil Kaptyukh.

A makeshift memorial to the victims outside the Kastrychnitskaya subway station.
Alena Struve, a correspondent with RFE/RL's Belarus Service, was traveling by subway toward the Kastrychnitskaya station at the time of the blast. When her train was blocked at a nearby station, she got out and walked the rest of the way, accompanied by hundreds of increasingly anxious pedestrians.

Around the station, the noise of ambulance sirens mixed with the sound of mobile phone rings. Many people in the crowd answered calls assuring the caller they were all right. Others nervously dialed their phones, searching for loved ones they feared might be inside the station. One tearful voice could be heard shouting into a phone, "Why aren't you answering? Pick up!"

Eyewitnesses emerging from the smoke-filled station said the platform below was filled with the sound of unanswered cell phones in the clothing of the dead and injured.

Many of the people to emerge were hysterical, covered with burns and describing a platform littered with severed arms and limbs. Another described seeing sugar crystals sprayed over the floor.

Outside, medical staff tended the wounded, searching for the most seriously injured and carrying them away on stretchers. Those with milder injuries were asked to wait.

As a crowded tram carried people away from the scene, passengers speculated that the perpetrators would never be caught -- as was the case with a similar bombing in 2008 -- but that many people would be blamed.

"Don't worry," yelled one man. "Our father will maintain order" -- a reference to Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

City authorities say families of those killed in the blast will receive the equivalent of $10,000 in reparations.

Authorities continued their investigation to catch the perpetrators of the devastating attack, issuing a composite image of at least one potential suspect on April 12.

written in Prague by Daisy Sindelar; reported in Minsk by Alena Struve