herald

Monday 5 December 2016

'There's so many IS victims... it's like a meat grinder', says Irish medic in Syria

Dr Calvin James in Syria
Dr Calvin James in Syria

A Dublin paramedic based in Syria has spoken of the horror he has seen in the battle against Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East.

Calvin James (38) has spent the past five months in Syria where he regularly has to cope with the aftermath of suicide bombings, gun attacks and roadside explosions.

He was on the scene last month when two suicide bombings killed 60 people.

Detonate

Days later, another terrorist tried to detonate a vest primed with explosives, but it failed to go off.

Mr James is among a group of 30 paramedics working in an area of the Rojava region which has only 70 doctors and a handful of ambulances serving three million people.

"As far as I'm aware, I'm the only Irish person in the region," he said. "I've been to Syria and Iraq several times. When the civil war broke out and IS came to be, I couldn't stay at home and watch it any more."

Mr James, who worked as a social worker in Ireland, said he went to Syria to offer his help in any way he could.

"When I got out there, there were enough ambulances but not enough personnel and they were really short-staffed," he said.

"They started training me up as a paramedic, which might sound a bit daft but they don't have the people."

Mr James is now based in Manbij City, which was previously 80pc controlled by IS. It is the terror group's third-most important city after Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

"There's a lot of casualties and a lot of dead out there at the moment, it's like a meat grinder," he said.

Targeting

"There have been several cars bombs, several suicide bombings targeting police and military. When something like this happens you either go to the scene to help in any way you can or go to the hospital.

"You don't really have time to process anything out here. Around three weeks ago several friends got wounded but not many have died. The more time you spend out here you do get desensitised."

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