Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Field Hospital

June 21st 2011

Misrata Libya

You can get used to things in life, but the constant drone from the Mosque next door is starting to wear thin. From mid morning to night it plays a constant loop of call to prayer, repeated every 60 seconds, the same again and again and again.

Then again there are the Grad Rockets fired by the Gadaffi forces who are surrounding this city, from the roof of the hotel you can see them impact some a few km’s away towards the port and steel mill appear as plumes of smoke, whilst with closer ones you feel the impact and the smoke is much closer. As I was writing that sentence another landed close by, heard and felt the thump.

The attacks on the city itself are sporadic and come at anytime. Go to the frontlines outside the city and it is a constant barrage, both incoming and outgoing. At a field hospital 5km (3miles) from the frontline separating the Loyalists and the Rebels yesterday, a grad came in low and fast, hearing the incoming it’s a matter of dropping and preying because it is close, very close.

The field hospital is a converted tractor repair workshop. The doctor in charge, Mohammed Al Bayra is in his mid twenties and before the revolution worked in Oncology, asked how many rebels he has seen come arrive by ambulance or on the back floor of cars and pick ups, injured or dead. His response “Thousands”.

Frontlines are not “Lines in the Sand”, what was a safe distance can be become a disaster zone in the matter of minutes. The first indicator is normally the rebels fleeing back down the road in the back of trucks, faster than rats up a drainpipe. This is always a good cue for us to likewise consider a tactical relocation just in case, not to mention the Grad Rocket that came way to close for comfort.

An hour later we are back at the field hospital, and 6 ambulances and pickups arrive within ten minutes carrying more wounded back, Wounds to the arms, legs, chest and stomach evident as they are wheeled into the makeshift frontline hospital. They are patched up by the young doctor and his team of students and sent back into Misrata half an hour back down the road.

We leave too, there are only so many injured you need to film for a story and the scene will not change in the coming hours or days.

Back in Misrata. NATO jets are heard thousands of feet up in the sky, but even their noise does not drown out the mosque next door, the call continues and likewise the rockets will continue to fall around us, for the foreseeable future.

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