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First Responders Are Overwhelmed In Kabul After Explosions

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A day of tragedy in numbers - some 12 U.S. troops killed and 15 injured in today's two suicide bombings outside Kabul airport. The Associated Press reports at least 60 Afghans died, and more than 140 people were wounded. Officials with the EMERGENCY Surgical Centre - it's a trauma center in Kabul - say they were overwhelmed with patients. Rossella Miccio is president of EMERGENCY NGO. They run the hospital. We spoke with her earlier about what her team is seeing.

ROSSELLA MICCIO: At the moment, they confirmed that 33 patients have been admitted. The other were either referred to other facilities because they had minor injuries or were just dressed and then sent back home. So the hospital was already 80% full, but we have added extra beds in several areas of the facility in order to accommodate all the patients.

CORNISH: Do you know more about the people who have come in who are wounded? Were they people waiting outside the airport? Were they people who were traveling near the hotel that was also hit in the attack?

MICCIO: It's very difficult because there's a lot of confusion around. There are also a lot of people knocking at the door of the hospital to ask if one of their relatives is there, is among the patients because everybody was scattered around. But I would say that they are mainly coming from the airport - women, children with also very complicated and severe injuries, multiple traumas because the shells of the explosion hit limbs but also the belly, the chest, so some of them had vascular injuries. So it's really a big tragedy.

CORNISH: I know in the past you've talked about fighting that has taken place near your organization's hospitals that often has forced you to move patients to more protected areas. Is that even possible now?

MICCIO: At the moment, we don't leave the hospital, of course, because the roads are not safe at all. So it's - the situation is really very, very critical at the moment. So we believe that the hospital is a safe place. It has always been respected, let's say, by all the warring factions. And we hope that they will still respect the neutrality of the facility because that's the main facility for the people in Kabul at the moment.

CORNISH: So it sounds like you're still able to operate even though folks are staying put in their hospitals. What about getting supplies in or out in this moment when, clearly, the airport's not an option?

MICCIO: Exactly. This is one of the main problems that we are facing because we had extra supplies shipped to Afghanistan recently because we knew that the situation would become critical. Nevertheless, I mean, it's not lasting forever. So if we don't see any opening of the airport or also the land border, they're closed.

CORNISH: You have been able to continue being operational for all of these years. Is there anything about the current security situation that worries you, that that could be in jeopardy?

MICCIO: Well, compared to 20 years ago, the weapons, they - all warring factions have are much more sophisticated, much more powerful. Twenty years ago, 25 years ago, they were using a Kalashnikov produced in Peshawar, RPGs, former Russian weapons. Now they have very sophisticated weapons, those left behind by the Afghan army that surrendered, for example, that were provided by the U.S. And, for sure, I mean, if a new war starts, they will use them.

CORNISH: That's Rossella Miccio, president of EMERGENCY NGO. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.