Sunday, October 2, 2011

Libya conflict: Hundreds of residents flee Sirte

Queues of traffic at a checkpoint out of Sirte, Libya, on 2 October 2011 Residents say there is little food and no water or electricity in Sirte
Streams of civilians are fleeing the besieged Libyan city of Sirte, ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi's birthplace.
Hundreds of residents, in vehicles packed with belongings, are queuing at checkpoints leading out of the city.
Transitional authority forces say they are observing a truce to encourage the remaining civilians to get out, before launching a final assault.
Meanwhile, an International Red Cross team has been into Sirte and says there is an urgent need for medical aid.
Sirte is one of two major cities still holding out against the National Transitional Council (NTC) forces.
The whereabouts of Col Gaddafi remain unknown.
War-wounded kits Scores of cars, buses and trucks piled high with household goods were lined up at NTC checkpoints on the outskirts of Sirte on Sunday.
The fleeing residents said the situation in the city had deteriorated to such an extent that there was little food and no water or electricity.

At the scene

The transitional authority forces have moved two fuel tankers to a rest stop outside the town.
Long lines of cars are queuing there for a ration of petrol that will get them as far as the city of Misrata.
They appeared stressed and very nervous. As residents of Muammar Gaddafi's home town they are treated with some suspicion and their cars are searched thoroughly at checkpoints.
The few who would talk spoke of the misery that forced them to leave Sirte, of frequent bombardments and increasingly unsanitary living conditions.
"We couldn't leave our homes because of the shelling; we had to leave the city," Ahmed Hussein, travelling with his wife, mother-in-law and two children, told Associated Press news agency.
Another man, Ali, said he and his family were leaving because "we are caught between Nato bombings and shelling by rebels".
"Nato, in particular, is bombing at random and is often hitting civilian buildings," he told the AFP news agency.
The Geneva-based ICRC says nearly 10,000 people have now left Sirte, with at least a third setting up camp in desert areas just a few kilometres from the city not wishing to travel too far from their homes.
It says that in Sirte itself, people are dying in the main hospital because of a shortage of oxygen and fuel.
An ICRC team was given security clearance from both sides to cross checkpoints and visit the city's Ibn Sima hospital on Saturday.
"The hospital is facing a huge influx of patients, medical supplies are running out and there is a desperate need for oxygen. On top of that, the water reservoir has been damaged," the ICRC said in a statement.
The team was able to pass through the front lines and deliver medical equipment.
"What we have delivered is war wounded kits, I mean, basically this is medical equipment in order to be able to carry out operations for war wounded, about 200 war wounded patients," spokeswoman Soaade Messoudi told the BBC.
However, the team could not visit wounded people on the wards as the hospital came under fire.
"Several rockets landed within the hospital buildings while we were there," the leader of the ICRC team, Hichem Khadhraoui, told AFP.
"We saw a lot of indiscriminate fire. I don't know where it was coming from," Mr Khadhraoui said.
Gaddafi loyalists have been putting up stiff resistance in Sirte since NTC troops began their assault several weeks ago.
On Friday, the NTC troops captured the airport. Forces from the east and west of the country are moving against the city and are trying to launch co-ordinated attacks against the Gaddafi loyalists in the city centre.
Only when they have taken it will they consider Libya to be fully under their control, says the BBC's Jonathan Head on the outskirts of the city.
Bani Walid is the only other remaining centre of resistance against NTC forces.
Sirte map
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