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Malta ‘the only aid line’ for besieged Misurata

Misurata ‘a nightmare come true’

Libyan rebels man a checkpoint in Uqayla, 20 kilometres east of Ras Lanuf, yesterday as loyalist forces overran Ras Lanuf, scattering outgunned rebels while world powers debated arming the rag-tag band of fighters seeking to oust Gaddafi. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP

Libyan rebels man a checkpoint in Uqayla, 20 kilometres east of Ras Lanuf, yesterday as loyalist forces overran Ras Lanuf, scattering outgunned rebels while world powers debated arming the rag-tag band of fighters seeking to oust Gaddafi. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP

The situation in Misurata is nightmarish as regime loyalists continue to suppress the citizens while coalition forces seem to be on hold assessing the situation, according to Taruk Tarhuni, a member of a team which provides aid from Malta – the only supply line to the besieged city.

The team charters vessels from Valletta to transport medicine and food to Libya’s third city, scene of fierce and long-drawn conflict between rebels and Gaddafi forces.

Mr Tarhuni said the crew has tried to smuggle in supplies several times but managed to dock in Misurata only twice in the past weeks.

“We approach the troubled waters very cautiously and then dash towards the dock, dodging the regime’s patrol boats.

“The port city of Misurata is suffering, and although three regime patrol boats were blown up by the international coalition, the coast is totally controlled by Col Gaddafi.

“The situation seems to be from a book or a movie. We sneak in under the watchful eyes of both the allies and Gaddafi’s navy. The situation is unimaginable. The shelling here is for real,” he exclaimed, adding that the people in Misurata are “not safe at all”.

“The stock we take in is limited as large vessels won’t even dare to dream about approaching the war zone,” Mr Tarhuni said. “Misurata is cut off from the rest of the world and the only supply line is by sea from Malta.”

Expressing his gratitude for the help the team has received from the Maltese, he pleaded with the international community to come to terms with the real state of affairs.

The city is assaulted from land and sea. Medicine for chronic diseases and surgical tools for amputations are scarce. Even basic medicine is unavailable. Hospitals cannot cater for common injuries and wounds as only grave cases are being admitted. All this means infections are spreading fast.

Most nurses in Libya were foreign and they fled at the beginning of the uprising. On the other hand, Libyan doctors cannot get to hospitals as they are under siege in a city infested with snipers. Milk and food for babies is nonexistent.

A resident said there was no water and electricity. “Misurata is a nightmare come true. Civilians feel psychologically burdened by the chaotic situation in the city. Our daily life pattern no longer exists. It’s all so surreal. It seems as if life is on hold,” he said, as mayhem could be heard in the background.

A doctor, part of the small crew onboard the human-aid vessel, assesses the situation of those seeking aid. “We couldn’t risk a lot of personnel, as the situation is very tense and it is getting out of hand” an agitated Mr Tarhuni said.

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