The international Red Cross has begun repairing a war-damaged water pumping station in Basra, but the agency cautioned it needs to do more to thwart a looming humanitarian crisis.
A two-member team from the International Committee of the Red Cross team reached the Wafaa Al-Quaid station in the city, the scene of fierce fighting between Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition troops, spokesman Florian Westphal said.
"We needed security guarantees from both sides," Westphal told The Associated Press.
Basra's water supply was cut Friday. ICRC Iraqi staff and city authorities immediately started working to get clean water to Basra's residents, and by Monday pipelines were running at only 40 percent capacity.
But the supply requires extra treatment because it comes from the salt-water Shatt el-Arab river. Most of Basra's water was previously drawn from the freshwater Tigris river.
Westphal said the ICRC team was trying to fix damaged electricity cables at the Wafaa Al-Quaid station. Meanwhile, they had set up generators to run the plant.
"With generators the plant is unlikely to be able to run at full capacity," he said. "It cannot be a permanent solution to run on generators, because you have to cut them at times to refuel them or let them cool down."
"But it will definitely be a major improvement on the current situation."