Iraq

Red Cross checks Baghdad hospitals after blitz

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GENEVA, (Reuters) - Red Cross workers on Saturday toured Baghdad hospitals to check on Iraqi reports of hundreds of civilians being wounded in overnight bombing, a Red Cross spokesman said.

A medical team will check whether the hospitals need supplies to treat the wounded, according to Florian Westphal, spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Iraq's information minister on Saturday said that the overnight blitz by the United States and Britain on the capital had wounded 207 civilians, but there was no independent confirmation.

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said another 43 civilians had been hurt in earlier raids.

"Our main concern is to find out the situation of the wounded and see if there are any needs we can address. We have been told by the authorities that there are many wounded," Westphal told Reuters.

"Our expatriate doctor and local staff are doing a tour of hospitals to see what the needs are," he added. "We are preparing some medical and surgical material which could still be delivered today depending on the needs."

The Swiss-based ICRC -- one of the few aid groups to still deploy foreign aid workers in Iraq -- has been providing Baghdad hospitals with emergency medical supplies and clean water.

It hopes on Saturday to finish installing a water purification unit for the Medical City General Hospital, which has some 2,500 beds, according to the agency.

"As far as operations and treatment of war-wounded go, they may be using up supplies quite fast depending on the number of oeprations they have to carry out," Westphal said.

The six ICRC expatriate officials in Baghdad are also checking with authorities about the city's water supply and power, although both systems appeared to function normally.

The agency has prepared pumps, storage tanks and sites for emergency water distribution "if and when needed" in Baghdad, it said in an overnight statement.

Four ICRC officials remain in the northern city of Arbil, monitoring the situation of Kurds in the three protectorates which broke away from Iraqi government control after the 1991 Gulf War.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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