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Aid shipment reaches Misrata

Posted Date: 02/04/2011

Malta Independent - 2 April 2011 

A rusty fishing trawler packed with food and medical equipment has managed to dock in Misrata, bringing one of the first aid shipments to Libya’s besieged third city since it came under fierce attack by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

The shipment, which arrived this week from Malta, was carrying 150 tons of much-needed aid provided by Libyan diaspora groups and humanitarian agencies including Germany’s Medeor and Solidarity Overseas Service (SOS) Malta.

“We feel that if aid can get to the people, we must get it to them as quickly as possible,” said Claudia Taylor-East, head of SOS Malta, before the boat left Malta.

The shipment arrived in Misrata, 132 miles east of Tripoli, on Wednesday after a 19-hour sea journey. It was able to pass into Gasr Ahmed port despite rocket fire only the night before which damaged parts of the terminal, according to port staff. Air strikes by international forces earlier in the week sank a Libyan navy vessel.

“Misrata is now surrounded on three sides,” said 40-year-old Tariq, the chief engineer on the boat, which usually fishes for tuna in the Mediterranean.

“You can only have access to the outside from the city by sea. In Misrata, this is the only ship that has international papers,” he said “We definitely don’t do it for the money. We just do it for our people”.

This is the second successful trip by the boat; a third one had to be aborted after the port was blocked by Libyan military vessels. Four boats laden with arms and fighters have also arrived from the eastern city of Benghazi.

There have also been humanitarian shipments from Turkey, which have brought back dozens of people wounded in the conflict in the city which the opposition says has killed around 200 people so far at least, and perhaps many more.

The latest shipment from Malta included flour, pasta, canned vegetables and sugar, as well as two mobile intensive care units and medicine.

The aid could not come soon enough for the main clinic in Misrata, which has been struggling to deal with an overflow of people with shrapnel and gunshot injuries.

“We have a shortage of staff, medication and equipment,” Ali El Misrati, a 27-year-old junior doctor who has lost three cousins in the conflict, told AFP as he bandaged the right leg of a patient wounded by shrapnel. “Forty people have come in so far today. It’s quiet,” he said.

On Tuesday, a medic said the death toll in Misrata was rising quickly – with 142 people killed in just 10 days – as Gaddafi’s forces continue to shell the town prompting warnings of a massacre from rebel spokesmen who appealed for air strikes.

One spokesman said that 20 people had been killed on Wednesday by Gaddafi’s forces deployed in the city’s main avenue and snipers perched on rooftops, adding “only three of the dead were rebels, the rest were civilians”.

Western coalition forces launched a campaign on 19 March to enforce a UN no-fly zone in Libya and to protect civilians under attack and pounded Gaddafi forces in and around the rebel stronghold.

The Libyan Foreign Ministry said on Monday that its troops had completed an offensive against Misrata and that “calm” reigned once again in the strategically important city.



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