Besieged town 'had run out of medicine'

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO (Reuter) - United Nations relief workers who finally reached the besieged Bosnian town of Zepa at the weekend said the hospital there had no medicine or anaesthetic and had amputated limbs with a carpenter's saw.

'The hospital was the worst place in the town,' said Risto Tervahauta, a Finnish doctor with the World Health Organisation (WHO) who made the trip to Zepa. 'They had one small box of surgical instruments. Two scalpels and a saw - not a surgical saw, but a carpenter's saw they used

in amputations to cut the bone,' he said, adding that 36 operations had been made without anaesthetic.

'I asked the doctors about amputations without anaesthetic. They told me some patients were crying, some were praying, some were shouting and some were singing,' Dr Tervahauta recounted.

Zepa, a cluster of villages in a remote mountain valley in eastern Bosnia, had been cut off from the outside world by a rebel Serbian siege since 3 March last year. The convoy finally entered the town on its third attempt on Sunday, carrying eight lorry loads of food and medical supplies for the region's estimated 29,000 residents and refugees.

Previous attempts on Friday and Saturday were held up by Serbian militiamen, barricades of tree trunks and minefields. Journalists travelling with the convoy were ordered to leave by Serbian gunmen six miles away.

Larry Hollingworth, a UN logistics expert who led the convoy, said that while conditions were bad, they were not as desperate as he had been led to believe by Bosnian officials.

'I have to be honest and say that in my own view it is no worse than Sarajevo,' he said.