Power and water cuts hit Libya

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Cuts to Tripoli’s water and power supply aggravated conditions for civilians after days of fighting undermined preparations to cope with the novel coronavirus.

Nader Mohamed, a taxi driver and father of three in Tripoli, said the situation was worse. He lives on the fifth floor and must carry the family water supply to their flat each morning.

They cannot afford a private generator and he sits in the evenings with candles, telling the children stories from memory.

“Beside the war, we now suffer from a virus and if it spreads God only knows what will happen,” he said.

The latest surge in warfare shows no signs of slackening, with fighting and bombardment on several fronts, but no decisive gains by either side.

Libya’s main split is between the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which holds Tripoli and other parts of the north-west.

The LNA, backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, has a parallel administration in Benghazi and launched an offensive a year ago to capture Tripoli frequently bombarding the capital.

The escalation is in defiance of pleas from the United Nations and international aid agencies to cease fire to allow Libya’s war-tattered health system to prepare for the coronavirus, with 21 cases confirmed.

On Monday, projectiles struck al-Khadra hospital in Abu Salim, an area held by the GNA near a frontline, causing damage and prompting the UN humanitarian co-ordinator to denounce “a clear violation of international humanitarian law”.

Turkish-supplied drones targeted LNA supply lines, both sides said, striking trucks. On Sunday they targeted a plane, which the GNA said was carrying arms and the LNA said was carrying medical supplies.

Drone use “changed the balance”, GNA deputy defence minister Salahedin Ali Namroush said in a phone interview. The drones are used to target “especially supply lines,” he added.

The electricity company said a technical fault was behind intermittent supply on Tuesday and Wednesday, while water provider, the Great Man Made River Project, said on Facebook gunmen stormed a control room on Tuesday, cutting the flow.

“The situation is miserable. Heavy fighting, coronavirus and now we have electricity and water cuts,” said Aynoor, an English teacher who asked not to use her family name.