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[casi] 2,000 Iraqi Civilians Bring Aid To Basra

Crowds of Iraqi civillians forced their way through Coalition checkpoints on the outskirts of the 
embattled southern city of Basra on Saturday to bring food and water to desperate relatives.,,30000-1085684,00.html

Around 2,000 Iraqis flooded across the bridge into the city as cars, trucks, taxis and carts loaded 
with supplies were eventually given permission to pass through Coalition lines.

But the exodus of people fleeing the fighting and worsening conditions in Basra also continues.

The city has had no water supply since the first days of the war when the Coalition began its 
aerial and artillery bombardment of the town, and food prices are reported to have trebled.

Humanitarian disaster

Patrick Nicholson of the Catholic Food Agency told Sky News that "the biggest relief effort in 
living memory" would be needed to avert a massive humanitarian disaster in southern Iraq.

But agencies cannot currently get into Iraq to begin a full scale relief programme because fighting 
across the country is still too intense, he said.

Mr Nicholson welcomed news that Coalition troops had brought much needed food to the town of 
Nasiriyah, around 100 miles north west of Basra and scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the 

But he said aid agencies would be much better placed to distribute the aid than "belligerent" 
Coalition troops.

Clean water

"We can ensure that food, water and medical supplies do get through to those most vulnerable.

"Unfortunately at the moment I doubt whether this is the case," Mr Nicholson said.

Earlier in the week, British soldiers and the crowd they were distributing food and water to in the 
southern town of Al Zubayr came under fire from Iraqi militia forces.

Mr Nicholson said although food supplies in Basra are running low, access to clean water is crucial.

"People die a lot quicker without water than without food," he said.

Major General Albert Whitley, the British officer trying to coordinate military efforts with 
humanitarian relief operations, said a pipeline laid from Kuwait to the southern port of Umm Qasr 
will open on Monday.

It will bring 600,000 gallons of water per day which can be trucked into other areas by military 
vehicles, Whitley said.

'Huge problem'

Mr Nicholson also said hospitals were running low on medical supplies because of the fighting and 
had specifically requested more first aid kits.

Around 650 tonnes of aid from Britain arrived in Iraq on supply ship the Sir Galahad on Thursday.

A spokesman for Christian Aid described the arrival of the Sir Galahad as a "pinprick on what is a 
huge problem".
Last Updated: 21:50 UK, Sunday March 30, 2003

© 2003 BSkyB

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