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An injured rioter lays on the ground in downtown Vancouver June 15, 2011. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
An injured rioter lays on the ground in downtown Vancouver June 15, 2011. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Riot sparks busiest night in 20 years at Vancouver hospital Add to ...

Most of the injuries treated at Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital on Wednesday night appeared to be from people trying to beat each other up, some while vandalizing stores, and were not from police action, says Dr. Eric Grafstein, head of the hospital's Emergency department.

In the busiest night at the hospital in at least 20 years, doctors saw people with broken jaws, broken legs and knife wounds related to the post-game events, Dr. Grafstein said in an interview early Thursday morning.

"We saw far fewer injuries related to police actions," he said. At other times where police have confronted crowds in Vancouver, the hospital has seen injuries from rubber bullets and police batons, he added.

"These injuries were mostly from fights between people. I don't know all the details but most of the injuries were caused by participants in the events, not the police," Dr. Grafstein said.

During the peak of the riot, St. Paul's Hospital treated 60 patients over a two-hour period for injuries such as cuts to the head, leg injuries and one case, a collapsed lung.

Dr. Grafstein, an emergency medicine doctor who has been at St. Paul's for 20 years, said the riot was the busiest few hours the hospital has ever experienced. Between 50 and 100 people covered with tear-gas powder were washed down by hospital staff in a unit set up outside the hospital. The patients were partially stripped and hosed down.

Dr. Grafstein said the tear-gas decontamination unit was outside the hospital building in order to keep the powder from contaminating other patients. "It can go through a whole department," he said.

As the emergency bays filled with ambulances throughout the evening, the hospital called in 50 extra nurses and seven additional physicians to respond to the patients. A cardiologist called up and volunteered to come down to the hospital. Although it was a dark day for the city, the hospital's emergency preparedness plans worked well, he said.

The police response in Vancouver was in sharp contrast to police action during last year's G8 meeting in Toronto, when scores of people were injured when police tried to diffuse protests.

The riot broke out minutes after the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 in the final game of the Stanley Cup. Under clear skies, tens of thousands of fans had been watching the game outside Rogers Arena on mega-screens set up by the city on a main thoroughfare, adjacent to the city's downtown commercial centre.

First, a car was overturned and put on fire. Within minutes, dozens of storefront windows were smashed and merchandise looted. Several more cars, including a few police cars went up in flames.

As the chaos spread, thousands of people stood around, with their mobiles, videoing the riot on their phone cameras.

Vancouver police initially stood back. Firefighters, fearing for their safety, also did not respond immediately to the fires.

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