The wards of the Bouciaut hospital filled with water, threatening to drown hundreds of helpless patients. Police and hospital staff quickly moved to evacuate those who could not help themselves. To move each patient, a pair of rescuers grabbed the handles on each end of a cot, then shuffled carefully across the hastily constructed walkways. They carried the sick to rain-soaked wagons that in some cases were already taking on water.
Very few of the vehicles had any covering to protect their passengers on the journey to safety. Coal dust or plaster, left behind from the normal uses of these donated vehicles, coated many of the improvised ambulances.