Toga is a small market town, some 29 Kms West of Mekelle . On Tuesdays every week, its market day, however, it is filled with people coming from far and near to shop, trade or buy and sell their produce. Many also come from Mekelle to trade and return.
On June 22, 2021, the market started as usual, but soon it was changed into chaos and carnage. Starting from about 11 AM, three bombs were dropped in Togoga and a nearby village. The first one landed in a field in the nearby village, and the latter two landed on the Togoga market full of market goers killing and wounding many and demolishing at least 25 houses. A group of healthcare workers that reached Togoga first recount some of what they saw.
They were five healthcare workers in two ambulances that sneaked into Togoga through kokolo. They arrived at 8:20 pm. They found a few residents grieving and waiting helplessly on the roadside with casualties lying down on the ground. “When we arrived there, eye witnesses told us that more than 80 people died. But yesterday afternoon, a guy told us that he knows for sure that about 40 died.” One MD said “I saw about 25 houses destroyed by the airstrike”.
The actual death toll is 64 while about 184 have been injured as confirmed today, bringing the total causality to 244.
After giving a first aid, they said “we did a triage and identified those who need immediate medical intervention in Ayder”. One medical doctor and a nurse started traveling to Mekelle with 10 critically injured patients among whom were 3 children. This was around 10:30 PM
When they reached halfway (a place where it was possible to make phone calls), they were alerted that the military had held healthcare workers who tried the route they followed hostage and they have said they will kill anyone who tried to enter Mekelle from that side.They accused us of passing their checkpoints unnoticed saying we had passed by turning off our lights.
Disappointed, they returned to Togoga. They said
We did not know what to do as we did not have enough medical tools to help the victims in the village. We agreed to move the victims into a nearby primary school. So, we spent the night giving fluids and doing bandages. We hoped that additional ambulances would be sent to us in the early morning and we would be allowed to go back to Ayder as that was promised to us during the night.
But the military refused to let any ambulance to pass on Wednesday too. So, they continued doing the first aid works. They had about 50 wounded people. “We were really scared that we will lose the critical patients.”, said one medical doctor. Around 11am, they were informed that the school they were in was targeted for bombing. They moved the patients to nearby woods. An MD said,
We had to move the patients into the woods. We used the acacia trees as an IV stand. At some point, I thought we all were going to die as we heard some bombings from a direction south of Togoga. Around 3:00pm, we run out of the medical items. So, there was really nothing we could do.
Then four ambulances that have been given permission arrived at around 3:30pm. Two of the ambulances were from ICRC.The ambulances were able to carry about 25 victims. “We left the other patients there with a promise that the ambulances will return”, said the MD. Ambulances have departed from Ayder early morning today [Thursday]. I hope they will make it.
3. Additional Footages from before the arrival of the health care workers