10/03/2011, 00.00
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Mgr Martinelli makes plea as risk of humanitarian catastrophe looms in Sirte

Libyan hospitals are on the brink of collapse. People are dying for the lack of oxygen tanks and ongoing blackouts. More than 10,000 people have fled Sirte and Bani Walid, the last strongholds of the old regime. Tripoli bishop calls on foreign nations to take in thousands of the wounded.
Tripoli (AsiaNews) – “The situation in Sirte is dreadful. The evacuation of civilians by members of the National Transitional Council is difficult because of fighting with Gaddafi’s men. A truce is necessary,” said Mgr Martinelli, apostolic vicar to Tripoli. Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate stressed the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe, and made a plea to the international community: “Foreign nations, especially in Europe, should take in the wounded and the injured for treatment and care. Libya’s health facilities are doing their best, but they are not enough.”

So far, some 10,000 people have fled Sirte, the last stronghold of Libya’s former leader, along with Bani Walid and Sabha. At least a third of the refugees has set up camps in the desert a few kilometres from the city so as to remain close to their homes.

Refugees describe a situation of utter chaos with hundreds of bodies lying in the streets with houses in ruin or burning.

Many accuse NATO and the rebels of striking at random without concern for possible civilian casualties.

According to the Red Cross, hospitals in Sirte are no longer functioning. The wounded and injured have to go to Tripoli and Misratah, but even there facilities are running out drugs and people are dying for lack of oxygen tanks and ongoing blackouts.

“It won’t be easy to bring peace speedily,” Mgr Martinelli noted. “Gaddafi is not defeated yet, and there are constant vendettas among families and tribes.”

Still, the prelate is confident that the ongoing changes will bear fruit, urging everyone to pray for the Libyan people.
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