BETWEEN 300 and 400 people may have died when Romanian security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the town of Timisoara at the weekend, Hungarian radio reported Dec. 19. It quoted a young Hungarian whose relatives are doctors working in a hospital in the town as saying that 250 people died in one hospital alone.
``Hundreds are lying in the hospitals with terrible wounds, some from bullets, others crushed by tanks,'' he said, adding that he had talked to his relatives by telephone Tuesday morning.
The radio also reported that shooting had broken out again Tuesday morning in Timisoara, which is in Romania's Transylvania region, but it gave no source. The man quoted his relatives as saying that the demonstration, which began after police attacked a crowd trying to block the eviction of an ethnic Hungarian clergyman, was not confined to Hungarians.
``Only about 20 percent of the dead and wounded are Hungarians,'' the man quoted his relatives as saying. Most of Romania's 1.7 million ethnic Hungarian minority live in Transylvania.
He said students and workers took part in the demonstration, the biggest challenge to hard-line Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in two years.
The man also quoted his relatives as saying ambulances were forbidden to go out on the streets in the first two hours after the clashes broke out. One doctor who tried to give first aid to the wounded was arrested.
Romania has sealed itself off from the outside world, closing its borders with Hungary, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia to all but the occasional transit traveler and diplomat.
A Bulgarian truck driver who went to Timisoara said, ``All the windows are destroyed. There are tanks and military trucks everywhere. In the center all buildings are sealed off by soldiers.''
He said that in the town's main square a soldier was posted with a mounted machine gun.
``People in the street look as if they are in a state of shock,'' he said.
Asked how many soldiers there were, he replied: ``It was a sea of green.''
From Paris, Romanian-born playwright Eugene Ionesco appealed Dec. 19 to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to intervene to end the 24-year rule of Mr. Ceausescu.
``There is one man who could do something and I appeal to him. That man is Gorbachev, and he alone. He must use his influence because he has influence. Gorbachev only needs to break economic ties, that would be the first thing to do,'' said the playwright, who lives in Paris.
Mr. Ionesco said he believed the regular Romanian Army was not involved in attacks on protestors: ``They are police officers, Ceausescu's private army.''