Libya's Misrata struggles to recover after weeks of siege

MISRATA, Libya Sun May 22, 2011 4:19pm IST

A rebel fighter takes cover atop a building during a firefight and shelling near Tripoli street in Misrata April 21, 2011. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis/Files

A rebel fighter takes cover atop a building during a firefight and shelling near Tripoli street in Misrata April 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Yannis Behrakis/Files

Related Topics

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Residents of this battle-scarred city in west Libya searched for food from poorly stocked shops on Sunday and rebels stripped weapons from the carcasses of Muammar Gaddafi's armour.

Distant blasts rumbled through the eerily quiet roads of Misrata, Libya's third biggest city and the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since an uprising began in mid-February.

Rebels say they have pushed Gaddafi's forces 25 km (15.5 miles) from the centre of the besieged city after weeks of street fighting and bombardments.

The main shopping district lies ravaged by the fighting, its streets strewn with abandoned tanks, their turrets blown off.

The ruined contents of damaged shops spill onto the streets and bullet-pocked manikins litter the floor of a once-bustling shopping centre.

Gutted restaurants were heaped with tables and chairs amid shattered glass. A clock atop a tower in a central square had stopped at 7.45. The turret of one dismembered tank was leaning upright against the entrance to a watch shop.

The sound of battle rumbled far in the distance.

Amran Zoufrey, 84, wept as he staggered through the town centre past buildings blasted open or crumpled by the artillery shells and rockets that rained down upon Misrata for weeks.

"Look at all this. I can't believe it," he said. "If God hadn't brought us NATO, they would have burned us all. Even in the Second World War, when I was young, we didn't have this destruction. Now I wonder when the next rocket will come and kill me."

HUNDREDS DEAD

Government forces shelled residential areas of Misrata on Saturday, according to rebels.

Hundreds have died in the siege of the port city since residents rose up against Gaddafi in late February. NATO air strikes against Gaddafi's armour failed to stop the destruction.

Rebel fighters have erected sand berms at intersections and the central streets are empty of cars. Some rebels busied themselves stripping the gun placements from tanks.

One of them, 26-year-old Abdulhakim, said: "It's quiet here in the city but they (Gaddafi's forces) are on the outskirts. There was fierce fighting yesterday, every day".

A ship chartered by the International Organization of Migration brought aid including flour and vegetables to Misrata late on Saturday.

A few street vendors were selling fresh vegetables but residents said they were surviving mostly off processed cheese and other goods that take longer to perish.

"It's a catastrophe but we have hope. We've liberated our city," said Ali el-Houti, a 42-year-old civil servant, as he walked through the street.

On Tripoli Street in central Misrata, the scene of some of the fiercest clashes, the tops of many buildings were still littered with empty bullet casings where snipers had taken positions.

Gaping holes in buildings around the Misrata's Lawyer Syndicate suggest it saw some of the fiercest house-to-house fighting.

"All the people were scared. We were in the house listening to the explosions and tanks. The house shook many times," said Youssef Faitouri, 55.

FILED UNDER:

Lost AirAsia Flight

Indonesia's vice-president Jusuf Kalla (L) monitors progress in the search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501 during a visit to the National Search and Rescue Agency in Jakarta December 28, 2014 in this picture supplied by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Antara Foto/Wahyu Putro A

Indonesia says missing AirAsia plane could be at "bottom of sea"

A missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people could be at the bottom of the sea after it was presumed to have crashed off the Indonesian coast, an official said on Monday, as countries around Asia sent ships and planes to help in the search effort.  Full Article | Slideshow 

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Indian Economy

Indian Economy

GDP growth expected to be "much better" in 2015/16 - Jaitley  Full Article 

Afghanistan Mission

Afghanistan Mission

U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan ends combat role; thousands of foreign troops remain  Full Article 

Anti-Trust Probe

Anti-Trust Probe

For Qualcomm, China settlement may be just the beginning  Full Article 

Korean Talks

Korean Talks

Amid hacking tensions, South Korea proposes resuming talks with North   Full Article 

Ferry Fire

Ferry Fire

Hundreds still awaiting airlift on stricken Italian ferry  Full Article 

Man City Draw

Man City Draw

Man City pay heavy price for lack of spine  Full Article 

'The Interview' Earns

'The Interview' Earns

Sony's 'The Interview' makes $18 million in opening weekend  Full Article 

India in 2014

India in 2014

A review of the top stories from India  Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage