Reporters on the ground in Cairo describe “pools of blood,” “near constant gunfire” and being targeted themselves by Egyptian security forces as violence gripped the city on Wednesday.

The number reported dead is fluctuating from “scores” to “hundreds” after the Egyptian military and security forces followed through with their threats to clear protest encampments set up by supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Attacking the sit-in camps with bulldozers, tear gas, and live fire, security forces were reported to have shot unarmed protesters as they tried to escape behind barricades or flee.

Agence France Presse and Reuters put the number at over forty people killed, but the Independent quotes members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the target of the violence, at several hundred with thousands wounded.

At least one field hospital near the Rabaa protest camp had been turned into a morgue, as the Independent’s correspondent Alastair Beach documents in this tweet [warning: graphic image].

According to Reuters:

[A witness] saw soldiers fire at protesters as they tried to enter the besieged Rabaa camp in solidarity with other Morsi supporters. At least 20 were shot in the legs. Television pictures showed security forces shooting from nearby rooftops.

“Tear gas (canisters) were falling from the sky like rain. There are no ambulances inside. They closed every entrance,” said protester Khaled Ahmed, 20, a university student wearing a hard hat with tears streaming down his face.

“There are women and children in there. God help them. This is a siege, a military attack on a civilian protest camp.”

A Reuters correspondent saw dozens of people lying in the street with bullet and birdshot wounds. Pools of blood were everywhere.

“At 7 a.m. they came. Helicopters from the top and bulldozers from below. They smashed through our walls. Police and soldiers, they fired tear gas at children,” said teacher Saleh Abdulaziz, 39, clutching a bleeding wound on his head.

“They continued to fire at protesters even when we begged them to stop.”

The Guardian is live-blogging here.

Photo: Rex/Engy Emad

Jon Queally is a staff writer with Common Dreams, where this article first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission.