Red Cross says situation 'dire' in besieged city of Sirte
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The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned of a medical emergency in Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, which is continuing to resist forces loyal to Libya's National Transitional Council.
AFP - People are dying due to lack of basic medical care in Sirte, the Red Cross said Saturday after it visited Moamer Kadhafi's besieged hometown and saw the hospital there hit by rockets.
"It's a dire situation," Hichem Khadhraoui of the International Committee of the Red Cross told AFP, adding that a team he led had delivered 300 "war wounded kits" and about 150 body bags.
Medical personnel at the city's Ibn Sima hospital told the Red Cross that "because of lack of oxygen and fuel for the generator people are dying," he said from his base in the nearby city of Misrata.
Other wounded or ill people cannot get to the hospital because of the fighting and NATO airstrikes, Khadhraoui said.
"Several rockets landed within the hopsital buildings while we were there," he said. "We saw a lot of indiscriminate fire. I don't know where it was coming from."
After the ICRC team went in, National Transitional Council fighters launched a ferocious attack with rockets, anti-tank cannons and machine gun fire from a position less than a kilometre from the hospital.
Kadhafi loyalists responded with mortar and sniper fire.
"We were surprised" that the attack took place while the Red Crosss team was visiting, Khadhraoui said, adding that they had "contacted all parties to say we were going in."
The hospital's water tower has been hit and they have to bring in water from outside, he said.
The war wounded kits delivered include drips, drugs, gauze and other medical equipment, Khadhraoui said.
The Red Cross has been has been trying for weeks to enter Sirte. It sought to bring medical supplies in by boat but abandoned that idea because of security concerns.
Khadhraoui's team on Saturday included a doctor, a first aid medic and a logistician, he said.
"Oxygen is the main thing they asked for," he said. The ICRC did not carry out a full assessment of the hospital's medical needs and not visit the wards. They hope to return soon to bring in more aid.
Sirte, one of the last two hold-outs of Kadhafi loyalists, has been besieged by NTC fighters since mid-September. Thousands of residents have fled the city.