Africa

Libya conflict: Sirte medical need dire, says Red Cross

  • 2 October 2011
  • From the section Africa
Media captionThe Red Cross says people are dying in Sirte because of a lack of oxygen and fuel for hospitals

Fierce fighting for the besieged Libyan city of Sirte has left people there in desperate need of medical aid, says the International Red Cross.

People are dying in the main hospital because of a shortage of oxygen and fuel, the ICRC said.

Libya's transitional authorities called a two-day truce on Friday to let civilians leave, but the ICRC team said fighting was continuing.

Troops loyal to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi are being slowly pushed back.

Sirte, Col Gaddafi's hometown, and Bani Walid are the two main centres of resistance against the forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC).

'Rocket fire'

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva said its team had security clearance from both sides to cross checkpoints and visit Ibn Sima hospital.

"The hospital is facing a huge influx of patients, medical supplies are running out and there is a desperate need for oxygen. On top of that, the water reservoir has been damaged," the ICRC said in a statement.

The team was able to pass through the front lines and deliver medical equipment.

"What we have delivered is war wounded kits, I mean, basically this is medical equipment in order to be able to carry out operations for war wounded, about 200 war wounded patients," spokeswoman Soaade Messoudi told the BBC.

However, they could not visit wounded people on the wards as the hospital came under fire.

"Several rockets landed within the hospital buildings while we were there," the leader of the ICRC team, Hichem Khadhraoui, told AFP news agency.

"We saw a lot of indiscriminate fire. I don't know where it was coming from," Mr Khadhraoui said.

Staff at the hospital told the Red Cross that people were dying because of a lack of oxygen and fuel for the generator, he said.

Gaddafi loyalists have been putting up stiff resistance in Sirte since the troops supporting the National Transitional Council (NTC) began their assault several weeks ago.

On Friday, the NTC troops captured the airport. Forces from the east and west of the country are moving against the city and are trying to launch co-ordinated attacks against the Gaddafi loyalists in the city centre.

But they are reluctant to mount a full scale assault to avoid civilian casualties.