Red Cross Fears Basra's Drinking Water May Run Low

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday drinking water could soon run low in the Iraqi city of Basra, scene of fierce fighting between British and U.S. forces and Iraqi defenders, and home to about 2 million people.

The main Wafa al-Qaed water treatment plant on the northern edge of Basra has been out of action due to a power outage since Friday and although other plants were able to supply some 40 percent of usual needs, the quality of the water was poor, the ICRC said.

"This is an emergency situation. We need to restore the full supply," said spokeswoman Nada Doumani. She said she did not know the reason for the power cut.

Adequate drinking water is vital for the local population because day time temperatures in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, can soar toward 104 degrees Fahrenheit, she said.

Tamara al-Rifai, ICRC spokesperson in Kuwait, told Reuters the ICRC was waiting for guarantees of safe passage from the combatants in order to be able to repair Wafa al-Qaed.

"We can go on now if we want to but it has to be on the basis of security guarantees," she said.

Asked if those guarantees were forthcoming, she replied: "Not yet."


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