Scenes Of Grief Amid Cambodia Crush Carnage

"(BBC)
Calmette Hospital is rarely a happy place at the best of times. It may be Phnom Penh's flagship healthcare centre but facilities are basic.

Now the Diamond Island bridge disaster may have turned it into the saddest corner of Cambodia.

Most of those injured in the crush on Diamond Island bridge were brought there, more than 700 of them - a serious challenge for the limited facilities of Calmette and several other Phnom Penh hospitals.

Patients and staff were forced to improvise. The injured lay on the floor if no bed was available, or stayed in the corridors if there was no room in the wards.

But it was not only the wounded who were brought to Calmette. Many of the hundreds who died came as well. They were laid out in rows inside a number of the city's hospitals. There were also picture boards outside, where people could perform the potentially heart-breaking task of looking for missing friends and relatives.

The boards made for gruesome viewing. The bodies had been laid on bamboo mats, and head-and-shoulders photos taken. Most of the victims had their eyes closed, but a few of them stared blankly into the lens - suggesting life when it had already been extinguished.

Doun was looking for her younger brother, who had not returned home. She had already been to several other hospitals. Now she was scanning the picture board of the dead outside Calmette Hospital.

She looked in vain. A measure of relief for Doun - perhaps her brother was still alive - but frustration and despair as well. ""I have looked all over and we haven't heard from him,"" she said. ""I am losing hope that he is alive."""