Tripoli faces severe shortages of food, fuel-A A +A
Sunday, August 28, 2011
TRIPOLI, Libya -- Rebel fighters pushed increasingly leaderless regime gunmen to the outskirts of Tripoli on Saturday, as severe shortages of fuel, water and electricity paralyzed the battle-scarred capital and the stench of growing piles garbage filled the air.
The rebels, who now control most of Libya, said they are preparing for an assault on Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, his last major bastion, if negotiations with tribal leaders there fail.
Rebels deployed in Bin Jawad, a town about 100 miles (150 kilometers) east of Sirte, said they are waiting for NATO to bomb Scud missile launchers and possible weapons warehouses there.
Earlier this month, two Scuds were fired from near Sirte, a first in Libya's six-month-old civil war.
"What we fear most is chemical weapons and the long-range missiles," said Fadl-Allah Haroun, a rebel commander. Once NATO has cleared the path, rebels will advance toward Sirte, he said.
Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown, but there has been speculation he may have sought refuge in his tribal area.
The rebels' information minister, Mahmoud Shammam, said the hunt for the defeated dictator won't hold up efforts to build a new administration and try to get the situation in Libya under control.
"We are following him. We are going to find him, but we are not going to wait for everything to find Gadhafi and his sons," he said.
Rebel fighters were also trying to open up the coastal road from Tunisia to Tripoli, a major supply route.
Rebels have taken control of the Tunisian-Libyan border crossing on the Mediterranean, but have been unable to ferry goods from Tunisia because regime loyalists were shelling the coastal road near the city of Zwara, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) from Tripoli, on Saturday.
A large ferry chartered by the International Organization for Migration docked in Tripoli's harbor on Saturday, unloading food, water and medical supplies.
On Sunday, the vessel is to take aboard 1,200 stranded foreigners, an IOM official said.
While fighting has died down in the city, life remains very difficult.
Much of the capital is without electricity and water. Streets are strewn with torched cars and stinking garbage, because trash hasn't been collected in many neighborhoods for months.
Corpses crowd abandoned hospitals. Stores are closed. Bombed planes sit on the Tripoli's airport's tarmac.
Fuel prices have skyrocketed. In Tripoli, the cost of 20 liters (about 5 gallons) has jumped to about 120 dinars ($100) - 28 times the price before fighting broke.
Shammam, the information minister, said 30,000 metric tons of fuel were being distributed Saturday, and that shipments of diesel fuel, for running power stations and water pumps, are on the way.
He said he hoped the area's largest refinery, near the city of Zawiya, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, could be restarted soon.
Mohammed Aziz, an operations manager there, said the refinery would start operating Monday.
In Tripoli's Abu Salim neighborhood, residents said gas is increasingly scarce.
"We buy it mainly on the black market, mainly from Tunisians," said Osama Shallouf, a resident. "When you hear that somebody in the neighborhood is selling it, you go to his house and buy it."
The shortages come as Muslims around the world, including in Libya, prepared for a three-day holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan early next week. Traditionally, children get new clothes, shoes, haircuts and toys for the holiday. (AP)