Annan Seeks Urgent Steps to Get Water to Basra
Monday 24 March 2003
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday called for urgent measures to help the people of Basra in southern Iraq obtain adequate water supplies amid heavy fighting between U.S. and British forces and Iraqi defenders.
"I have heard a report from the (International) Red Cross that the people in Basra may be facing a humanitarian disaster in that they have no water and they have no electricity," Annan told reporters at U.N. headquarters.
"I think urgent measures should be taken to restore electricity and water to that population," he said. "A city of that size cannot afford to go without electricity or water for long. Apart from the water aspect, you can imagine what it does for sanitation."
Basra's main Wafa al-Qaed water treatment plant on the northern edge of the city has been out of action due to a power outage since Friday and although other plants are able to supply some 40 percent of usual needs, the quality of the water is poor, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva.
"This is an emergency situation. We need to restore the full supply," Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani said. She said she did not know the reason for the power cut.
Adequate drinking water is vital for the local population because day time temperatures in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, can soar toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), she said. Basra has a population of around 2 million.
Tamara al-Rifai, ICRC spokesperson in Kuwait, told Reuters the ICRC was waiting for guarantees of safe passage from the combatants in order to be able to repair Wafa al-Qaed.
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