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Iraqi city out of power

21st May 2007

The Iraqi city of Samarra is fast running out of food, medicine and fuel, with medical treatment all but impossible, residents said.

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"There is no electricity, no water, no schools and no hospitals. Samarra has turned into a city for the dead," said Abu Mahmoud, a 65 year-old father of three.

A doctor in the city's main hospital said 10 people, including seven infants, had already died because of lack of fuel to power generators and operate life-saving machinery.

"The young and the elderly are most at risk. On one day, four new-born babies died because there was no energy to power incubators," he said.

An 11-day curfew in Samarra, just to the north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, following a suicide bomb attack on May 6 has pushed local people's survival skills to the limit.

Residents said they were struggling to find basic goods.

People were reportedly using wooden boats to ferry the sick and injured across the Tigris river to a nearby town.

The suicide bombing damaged the power grid and water pipes. Aid workers said the city was undergoing a humanitarian crisis, as food supplies ran low and hospitals closed.

U.S. and Iraqi forces turned back three aid trucks the organisation had sent to Samarra in an effort to ease the plight of the city's 300,000 residents, they said.

One truck sent by the provincial council filled with food, fuel and medicine did arrive 72 hours after the curfew was imposed, but many residents said they received no aid.

Local leaders said the Iraqi government was watching as the city died. The curfew would not help because it was seen as a form of collective punishment against innocent people, they said.

The Samarra Bridge, the main entrance for the historic city, has been mostly blocked off by U.S. and Iraqi forces with concrete slabs and sand barriers. Only some vehicles carrying fuel and food were being allowed through after intense searches.

 

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