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      Medics: Blast Scene was 'Eerily Silent, Like an Earthquake'

      Magen David Adom paramedics relate first-hand rescue experiences from the gas balloon explosion in Jerusalem Sunday night.
      By Ari Yashar
      First Publish: 1/20/2014, 2:48 PM

      Scene of gas explosion in Jerusalem
      Scene of gas explosion in Jerusalem
      Flash 90

      Magen David Adom (MDA) medics summed up on Monday what is presently known about the gas tank explosion that rocked the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem on Sunday night, leaving a family of two young parents and their 2-year-old son dead. 

      Around 1 a.m. on Sunday night MDA received numerous calls reporting the blast in southern Jerusalem. Immediately, emergency care ambulances, cars and other vehicles, carrying tens of paramedics and on-call staff.

      The forces arriving on the scene found massive destruction accompanied by an eerie silence. They did not locate any injured outside of the building, and were soon joined by police and fire department forces. MDA called the IDF's Homefront Command to the scene as well.

      Moments later several wounded residents emerged from the building that stood in danger of collapsing; further investigation revealed more wounded.

      MDA staff administered treatment to 15 injured who were located and rescued from the building.

      Among them were Avraham and Galit Tufan, found without a pulse and not breathing. MDA pronounced them dead at the site.

      Their son, not yet 3, was found in the ruined apartment as well, and evacuated to the hospital in critical condition while being resuscitated. Upon reaching Shaarei Tzedek Hospital he was pronounced dead.

      A nearly 60-year-old woman was also treated by MDA. She was evacuated in severe condition, suffering from systemic damage and vague consciousness. Another victim was a 60-year-old man found trapped under the wreckage and evacuated to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in moderate condition, with wounds to his head and limbs.

      An additional 3 in light condition were treated by MDA staff before being evacuated to the Hadassah Ein Kerem. They included a 50-year-old woman suffering burns to her face, an 80-year-old man wounded in his leg, and a 12-year-old suffering a head injury.

      An additional two 60-year-olds were treated at the scene and evacuated to Shaarei Tzedek in light condition. Two victims suffering from shock were found in the building, and treated at the site.

      MDA Jerusalem manager Shlomo Petrover oversaw handling of the incident from within moments of its beginning. "The scene at first sight looked like an earthquake. The moment we arrived we started to direct the forces and confirm all injured received treatment and were evacuated to hospitals. Because the building was in danger of collapse, there was great importance in rescuing the injured as quickly as possible." 

      Fadi Badarna, an MDA paramedic, was the one to save the infant from the building who was later pronounced dead.

      "I was at home when I got the message on my beeper about the explosion," relates Badarna. "I went to the location immediately by car, and joined the MDA forces at the scene. With the help of fire department forces we evacuated the building where the blast happened and the surrounding buildings."

      "During the rescue work they called me to one of the apartments in the building that blew up where an unconscious baby was found in a baby's crib totally covered by debris. With the help of firefighters we quickly cleared the wreckage and extricated the baby," said Badarna.

      The paramedic recalled his efforts to save the infant's life.

      "I immediately started resuscitation. Because of the danger of collapse, I left the apartment with the baby to MDA mobile emergency care vehicle, where we continued resuscitation efforts and evacuated the infant to the Shaare Tzedek Hospital while continuing resuscitation," recalled Badarna. "Doctors at the hospital continued the resuscitation attempts, but in the end were forced to pronounce his death."

      "Afterwards I returned to the scene and with the help of MDA paramedic Felix Lotan we saved a woman trapped in the wreckage behind a fridge that flew from the force of the blast. The woman was in severe condition and still trapped, and together with the firefighter crew we got the wreckage and stones out, and she was evacuated in severe condition with multi-systemic damage while suffering from burns on all parts of her body," relates the paramedic.

      Lotan, a senior paramedic with MDA who also serves as a rescue captain in the Homefront Command's National Rescue Unit, arrived at the explosion site minutes after it occurred and began searching for wounded.

      "I went in with the firefighters to search one of the apartments where it was suspected people were trapped," relates Lotan. "Suddenly one of the firefighters called me after finding a 50-year-old woman lying trapped. I reached her; she was covered in dust, bricks and broken items, fully conscious and restless and I couldn't communicate with her. We began giving her medical treatment while trying to rescue her from where she was trapped. Following first aid at the site she was evacuated in a MDA mobile emergency care vehicle to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital."

      Paramedic Yisrael Cohen tells of his experience at the blast site.

      "I worked night watches in mobile emergency care, around 1 a.m. I got a call about a gas balloon explosion in a residential building," said Cohen. "I got to the scene in minutes, people were already being rescued from the wreckage. When I went into the apartment where the blast occurred we found two 30-year-olds trapped under the rubble. They were unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse. After a long and difficult process of rescue we were forced to pronounced them dead."

      MDA CEO Eli Bin said "many MDA forces were called to the site of the explosion immediately after getting notice of it, and worked there quickly, professionally and with the needed caution to save as many lives as possible. The important cooperation between MDA and the police, the fire department and Homefront Command, were expressed in this incident, and together we succeeding in saving all the injured in the shortest time possible and give them the needed treatment."

      "I would like to express my condolences to the families of the dead, and to wish a full and speedy recovery to all those injured in the difficult explosion," said Bin.