Bloody chaos at hospital gives glimpse of Sirte's agony

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The Independent Online

In the windswept lobby of the Ibn Sidr hospital in Sirte, wounded men with blank expressions lay on trolleys, listening to the irregular drumbeat of the explosions destroying their city.

Forces loyal to the National Transitional Council (NTC) captured the hospital on Sunday morning. The scenes on Monday offered a sad glimpse into the desperate existence of those holding out in the last city in Libya still loyal to former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

There was blood on the floor and decomposing bodies in the morgue. The rooms were ransacked and the windows smashed. Many of the wounded had been wheeled into the corridors as shelling made the wards unsafe.

Workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were working to evacuate the wounded. "These people need to be treated and they can't be treated here," said Dibeh Fikr, spokesperson for the ICRC in Libya. But other hospitals nearby were full and aid workers were struggling to find beds for the 100 or so patients waiting there.

In one room, a young woman wept beside the bed of her newborn baby, delivered by Caesarean section the day before. Her three other children were still inside Sirte and she was fearful for their safety. She was being tended by nurses from eastern Europe. Maria, from Bulgaria, had been there for 17 years and had enjoyed life in Sirte before the war began. "I like working here," she said. But she broke down talking about her son in Bulgaria whom she hadn't spoken to for 45 days.

Other hospital workers said that they had been trying to leave the city for weeks but had been prevented by regime forces. "We are afraid we will be killed if we leave," said an Indian nurse, Nanay Brema. "We don't know," they said when asked their view of the NTC fighters who now control the hospital. "Same uniform, same gun," said Leiden Ramos, a nurse from the Philippines.

NTC fighters with face masks walked the smashed-up corridors of the hospital, taking the names of the wounded being evacuated. In a lorry outside the entrance, a wounded man lay on the floor, sobbing for his family still inside the city as gunfire and rockets were being blasted into Sirte's residential area.

"We offered them to give up their weapons," said Abdul Rahman Al Fugee, a petroleum engineer turned rebel fighter helping with the bombardment of Sirte from a cluster of apartment blocks half a mile away, "so what can we do but fight?"