Libya rebel town says doctors overwhelmed by wounded

Mon Mar 7, 2011 3:00pm GMT
 

* Misrata fighting off attacks by pro-Gaddafi militia

* Medical shortages are catastrophic: resident

* Wounded "being treated on hospital floor"

By Hamid Ould Ahmed

ALGIERS, March 7 (Reuters) - People wounded in fighting over the rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata are being treated on hospital floors because of a catastrophic shortage of medical facilities in the besieged city, a resident said on Monday.

Misrata is the biggest population centre in the west of the country not under the control of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and its stand against a militia commanded by his own son has turned it into a symbol of defiance.

Units of the 32nd brigade, which is led by Khamis Gaddafi, on Sunday launched the fiercest attack on Misrata so far, with a doctor in the town saying at least 18 people had been killed. Rebels said they repelled the attack.

Two residents said on Monday there was no new fighting and painted a picture of a city where ordinary people were organising to direct traffic and clean the streets, even as Gaddafi's security forces encircle the town.

MANY WOUNDED

But medical care appeared to be the biggest immediate problem facing Misrata, a city of about 300,000 people two hours' drive east of Tripoli.

"Regarding health, the situation is catastrophic," one resident, called Mohamed, told Reuters by telephone. "We are suffering a shortage in medicine and a lack of skilled doctors and medical equipment."

"We have a large number of wounded. Many of them are being treated on the (hospital) floor because we do not have a sufficient number of beds."

In a statement issued on Sunday, the United Nations' humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, called for aid workers to be urgently allowed into the town to treat the wounded. "People are injured and dying and need help immediately," she said.

Another resident of Misrata said local people had set up a committee to run their affairs and were providing basic public services.

"The youths have set up a committee to run things in the town," said the resident, who did not want to be named. "It (the committee) has its headquarters. Young men help direct traffic. They have also set up several checkpoints."

"Some shops are open to supply food. Bakeries are open. Some of them provide bread for free. There are also donations from many people here, thank God."

"But schools are still closed. Banks were open before yesterday's fighting, which forced them to close their doors again," he said.

The other resident, Mohamed, said young people were out in the streets cleaning up the debris from Sunday's fighting.

"Residents are helping each other. I have not seen this kind of cooperation ... in years," he said.

But he said rebels manning checkpoints on the entrances to the city were on the alert for more violence. "They are expecting a new attack at any time," said Mohamed. (Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

 
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