Wounded stream into Baghdad's hospitals
By Paul Eedle in Baghdad, Financial Times
Published: Apr 05, 2003
The ground war came to Baghdad yesterday. Casualties - both civilians and soldiers - streamed into hospitals from artillery battles and air attacks on the south-western approaches to the city. Families loaded goods on to pickup trucks and fled to the countryside.
Iraqi artillery and rockets pounded targets in and around the international airport, which US forces say they seized on Thursday night. US or British warplanes roared over Baghdad, unseen above clouds of grey smoke from the trenches of oil, which the city's defenders have lit to try to foil laser-guided bombs.
At Yarmouk Hospital, one of four big hospitals receiving casualties, orderlies wheeled a man towards the operating theatre. His body had been lacerated by shrapnel. A nurse cutting bandages for a man with chunks of flesh torn out of his leg said the injured were coming from all over the southern outskirts of Baghdad, and towns on the roads leading into the city.
Iraq's health minister, Omid Medhat Mubarak, told reporters at the emergency entrance that Yarmouk Hospital alone had received 36 injured and four dead yesterday morning. He had to stand aside as paramedics pushed in a stretcher holding a young man bleeding from a stomach wound.
Many of the injured were civilians, others were young men who had been involved in the battles. When one nurse noticed she was being filmed, she threw a green sheet over a military uniform which had been taken off one patient.
One man lying in the hospital had been driving a truck through the town of Mahmudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, when it came under bombardment.
"They attacked," Mohammed Farid said. "There was a heavy bombardment - artillery and from the air. I jumped out of the truck and ran. A piece of shrapnel hit me in the leg." He said soldiers drove him to hospital in his own truck.
Nothing moved in the suburbs either side of the highway to the airport in early afternoon. The only traffic on the airport road was military.
But on a main road leading out of the city, cars and trucks loaded with possessions headed out of town. Local people said many families were heading for areas to the north-west of Baghdad such as Khanaqin, 90 miles away on the border with Iran.
President Saddam Hussein told his people in a message read on state television by the information minister: "When the capital stands firm, the aggressors retreat, cursed and foiled, from all the territory they have defiled."
The president appeared later on television reading another message urging the people of Baghdad to fight. But the message might have been recorded at any time in the past week. It contained no reference to the latest fighting near the airport and the one specific event it mentioned was a peasant shooting down an Apache helicopter, which happened several days ago.