Red Cross doctors who visited southern Iraq this week saw
"incredible" levels of civilian casualties including
a truckload of dismembered women and children, a spokesman
said Thursday from Baghdad.
Roland Huguenin, one of six International Red Cross workers in
the Iraqi capital, said doctors were horrified by the
casualties they found in the hospital in Hilla, about 160
kilometres south of Baghdad.
"There has been an incredible number of casualties with
very, very serious wounds in the region of Hilla,"
Huguenin said in a interview by satellite telephone.
"We saw that a truck was delivering dozens of totally
dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful
sight. It was really very difficult to believe this was
Huguenin said the dead and injured in Hilla came from the
village of Nasiriyah, where there has been heavy fighting
between American troops and Iraqi soldiers, and appeared to be
the result of "bombs, projectiles."
"At this stage we cannot comment on the nature of what
happened exactly at that place . . . but it was definitely a
different pattern from what we had seen in Basra or Baghdad.
"There will be investigations I am sure."
Baghdad and Basra are coping relatively well with the flow of
wounded, said Huguenin, estimating that Baghdad hospitals have
been getting about 100 wounded a day.
Most of the wounded in the two large cities have suffered
superficial shrapnel wounds, with only about 15 per cent
requiring internal surgery, he said.
But the pattern in Hilla was completely different.
"In the case of Hilla, everybody had very serious wounds
and many, many of them small kids and women. We had small
toddlers of two or three years of age who had lost their legs,
their arms. We have called this a horror."
At least 400 people were taken to the Hilla hospital over a
period of two days, he said -- far beyond its capacity.
"Doctors worked around the clock to do as much as they
could. They just had to manage, that was all."
The city is no longer accessible, he added.
Red Cross staff are also concerned about what may be happening
in other smaller centres south of Baghdad.
"We do not know what is going on in Najaf and Kabala. It
has become physically impossible for us to reach out to those
cities because the major road has become a zone of
The Red Cross was able to claim one significant success this
week: it played a key role in re-establishing water supplies
Power for a water-pumping station had been accidentally
knocked out in the attack on the city, leaving about a million
people without water. Iraqi technicians couldn't reach the
station to repair it because it was under coalition control.
The Red Cross was able to negotiate safe passage for a group
of Iraqi engineers who crossed the fire line and made repairs.
Basra now has 90 per cent of its normal water supply, said
Huguenin, a Swiss, is one of six international Red Cross
workers still in Baghdad. The team includes two Canadians,
Vatche Arslanian of Oromocto, N.B., and Kassandra Vartell of
The Red Cross expects the humanitarian crisis in Iraq to grow
and is calling for donations to help cope. The Red Cross Web
site is: www.redcross.ca