Date: 23 April 1999 12:31
Rage, disbelief after NATO strike on Serb TV headquarters

BELGRADE, April 23 (AFP) - Rescue workers were searching for people still feared trapped in wreckage of the Serbian Television headquarters in central Belgrade hit by NATO missiles early Friday.

Up to 1O people were believed killed in the attack which occurred shortly after midnight but the death toll could go higher, rescue workers said.

At least 80 journalists and other staff were in the RTS television building at the time.

Smoke was still pouring from the wreckage at 8.20 a.m. (0620 GMT) when the RTS network, which was blacked out by the raids, came back on the air. It said one person was killed and 18 injured rushed to hospital.

But the private television channel BK said a «dozen people were killed and dozens more injured,» citing initial casualty estimates by rescue workers.

Firemen, ambulances and scores of rescue workers clawed their way through the debris seeking survivors. Heavy lifting equipment was rushed to the scene to remove tons of rubble.

Dozens of RTS employees, standing in a small park opposite the building, watched horrified at the scene, many crying in disbelief.

One said that a missile hit the building as Serbian television was broadcasting the recording of an interview given by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to a Texas TV station.

«The clock in the studio stopped at 2.06 a.m. (0006 GMT). The big screen is smashed. The presenter survived by diving under a table,» he said.

All the studio broadcasting equipment and furniture was damaged.

A blaze in the transmission office was eventually extinguished, but smoke was still pouring from the premises with an acrid smell in the air.

Marina X.. sobbed as she watched an excavator shift debris to allow rescue workers search the area where the technical services used to operate. Her brother, a video technician, was on duty at the time of the attack.

«I haven't dared tell our parents what happened. I can only pray he is alive,» she said.

«These criminals have no morals, no brain, no guts. What has my brother to do with Kosovo or any politician in the world,» she raged.

«NATO aggressors are now leading a media war with bombs, but bombs cannot kill the truth,» said a journalist working for the state-controlled media.

In Tasmajdan park, behind the TV building, bits of metal and debris were hanging from the trees and the whole area was sheeted in dust and rubble.

The twisted remains of a metal fence and damaged satellite dishes and a transmitter could be seen at the back of the building.

Residents of nearby buildings swept up pieces of broken glass from their shattered windows, incredulous that NATO would have targeted a building surrounded by apartment blocks.

«They are crazy. We could all be dead,» shouted one young woman, pulling her two children away from the scene.

Windows of Saint Marco church, 100 metres (yards) from the television building were also smashed. A centuries old church nearby also had its windows blown out.

«We heard a strong whistle, and 10 seconds after, all paintings fell from the wall in our living room,» said 70-year old Branko Markovic emerging from St. Marco church where he had been to pray and light a candle.

Markovic and his wife live in an apartment next to the RTS offices.

«It was like an earthquake, the blast, the silence afterwards, and then the cries of pain,» his wife said.

«I can only pray all of them will pay for their sins,» she said bitterly.

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