International Red Cross workers risking their lives to help civilians without water.
Published on Monday, March 24, 2003 by the Edinburgh Evening Herald (Scotland)
Basra Facing Disaster After Supplies Cut
An unidentified Iraqi man holds an unidentified girl wounded after U.S.-led coalition air attacks over the southern Iraqi city of Basra, Saturday March 22, 2003. (AP Photo/Nabil)
WATER and electricity have been cut off in the southern Iraqi city of Basra for more than two days, threatening a humanitarian disaster, it was claimed today.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that neither supply has been available since Friday, potentially crippling hospitals and services in the area.
Electricity cables powering the major Wafa al-Quaid water station - which supplies two million people and is the biggest source in the region - have been destroyed.
The ICRC said the station was under the control of the US-led forces and negotiations were on-going to try to set up emergency generators until the cables were repaired.
Florian Westphal of the ICRC said: "Sixty per cent of the local population are still without access to a regular water supply - this could develop into a humanitarian crisis.
"We are really, really going to try and gain access to the supply and do anything we can to repair it."
Mr Westphal confirmed that the situation in Basra was currently the organization's main priority, although the humanitarian situation in Baghdad was being closely monitored.
Earlier, Roland Huguenin Benjamin, from the ICRC in Baghdad, said the lack of water in Basra was causing serious concern to medical administrators.
"There is no water running," he said. "People will very soon be without the possibility of operating in hospitals or anything else for that matter.
"It is a humanitarian emergency that they should be given access to clear water. We definitely need to be able to send our engineers in there as soon as possible."