Iraq: 500 Civilians Injured By Bombing

The ruins of a cluster of homes in the Baghdad residential area of al-Qadissiyah are seen early Sunday, March 23, 2003, after reportedly being hit during overnight air strikes. Iraqi officials said seven houses were completely destroyed and 12 badly damaged, leaving many injured and one person missing and believed to be buried under the rubble.
More than 200 Iraqi civilians have been reported injured in the bombing of Baghdad, the International Red Cross said Monday, noting that the reports cannot be confirmed. Injuries are also reported in Basra.

The Red Cross had yet to meet prisoners of war held by either the United States or Iraq. It contacted the Iraqi government Monday about the prisoners taken over the weekend. The organization expects to meet soon with the roughly 3,000 Iraqis held by coalition troops, blaming logistical and practical reasons for the delay.

The Iraqi government has claimed more than 500 injuries in the bombing and 77 civilian deaths in Basra.

The Red Cross reported one death early on in the war, but none since.

"We may have heard of some since but are not reporting them," said Amanda Williamson, the U.S. representative of the international committee.

The Red Cross' primary job in Iraqi is providing assistance, not tracking casualties. Its staff of 100 in Iraq — 10 of whom are foreigners — learns about numbers of wounded while visiting hospitals to deliver medical supplies. The injuries reported so far include minor wounds as well as serious casualties.

Numbers aside, it seems things are getting more dangerous in Baghdad.

"I do hear movement is becoming more difficult because bombing is becoming more intense," said Williamson, who is based in Washington. "That's something that does concern us."

Planning for the war, the Red Cross focused on ensuring access to water and medical supplies, in the form of surgical kits for treating war wounded. Because of the lengthy build-up to the start of conflict, Iraqis had plenty of time to stockpile food. The Red Cross has food stores in Iraq that can be tapped "if the conflict prolongs," Williamson said.

The U.S.-led coalition says it is using precision weapons and a strategy that focuses on leadership targets and spares civilian infrastructure. That is apparently the case in Baghdad, where the lights are on and water supplies are flowing regularly, except for sporadic interruptions in some areas that may be the result of systemic problems that existed before the war.

The situation down south is far more serious. In Basra, water has been cut off since Friday because a loss of electricity shut down the pumps. It is not clear what caused the electricity to fail.

"Basra has more than 1 million inhabitants that need — absolutely need — this pumping station," she said. As a temporary measure, the Red Cross has rerouted some water supplies to reach 40 percent Basra's citizens.

The Red Cross has also erected temporary housing for a small number of displaced persons in northern Iraq.
By Jarrett Murphy