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Train helps Donetsk casualties reach other Ukrainian regions for treatment

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By Mark Armstrong  with EBU
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A patient waiting to be taken by train for treatment
A patient waiting to be taken by train for treatment   -   Copyright  EBU

With Russia's invasion of Ukraine continuing nearing its sixth month, the number of casualties continues to rise. 

Access to appropriate medical attention is becoming exceedingly scarce, making the line between life and death for some thinner each day.

For some, quick evacuation from the areas of the country that are hit the hardest means a chance at survival. A specialised train from the eastern Donbas region is meant to help with that. 

Ambulances arrive daily at Pokrovsk train station in Donetsk. From there, the wounded and ill are taken to regions where medical care is still available.

On the train, the patients are placed in either the carriage for intensive care or in one of the three carriages for regular hospital care. The train generates its own electricity to run the equipment and it carries a supply of oxygen.

"Our train can take forty patients at once," explained Albina Zharkova from Doctors Without Borders. "There are no other ways to evacuate such a number of patients altogether."

The stories told by the victims are no longer surprising, but doctors say they remain heartbreaking.

One man was working in his vegetable garden when a mortar shell struck.

"I was just leaning forward, then all of a sudden there was an explosion," said the patient, "dust was blown in my face." 

"I looked down, my hands were covered in blood. Blood was dripping everywhere."

It's not just people injured by the fighting that are being moved from Donetsk to other regions for treatment -- other chronically ill patients are also having to travel. 

"All cancer specialists have left Kramatorsk," said one patient. "And that’s it then: you can’t find anybody  who can offer medical care, especially when it concerns cancer."

The patients' evacuation train was headed for Lviv in the west of Ukraine -- an area of the country that has seen the least devastation -- where at least they will stand a chance of being treated and of recovering.