GROZNY - Yakha Umalatova ventured outside her small cafe in the Central Market to see what was happening after she heard a hissing sound in the sky. A moment later came a series of deafening explosions.
"I fell to the ground and then ran to my cafe and saw my co-worker, Malika Istamulova, lying on the ground with her leg torn away," Umalatova said Friday.
Several powerful explosions hit the market in Grozny on Thursday evening. The Russian military said it was a special operation intended to destroy an illegal arms bazaar and insisted that no civilians were hurt.
But eyewitnesses said Russian missiles exploded in the food market, which was packed with customers. The Chechen authorities put the death toll at 118 people, with up to 400 more injured.
"I saw a man engulfed in flames running across the market," said Khussein Osmanov, 40. "We managed to put out the fire, and he ran away in shock, half-naked."
Lyoma Gibashev, 41, who lives in an apartment building just a few blocks away, rushed to the market when he heard the blasts.
"I saw a young man, his leg torn away, pleading with me for help," Gibashev said.
He ran back home, returned in a car and drove three wounded people to a hospital. Two of them died on the way, and a third died later in the hospital.
Another missile exploded in the yard of the city's Central Maternity Hospital, located several hundred meters from the Central Market.
"We had just handled the deliveries of two women and sat down to rest when we heard the blast in the yard and plaster and shards of glass fell on us," said Dr. Zarema Lalayeva, 33.
The smell of blood and unwashed bodies filled Hospital No. 4 in the Chechen capital Friday. Corpses of people killed in the attacks lay next to badly wounded survivors in the corridors.
The floors were soaked with blood. It was dark and cold in the building, with temperatures below 4 degrees Celsius. Power and heating have been cut off in Grozny, and only the operating rooms were lit by diesel generators and kerosene lamps.
Doctors said many of the injured were in grave condition and likely to die because of cold and a severe shortage of medicine and other basic supplies.
Nurses walked past carrying buckets filled with shell fragments removed from victims' bodies.