27 Apr 2011

Chaos and bizarre privileges in Misrata

Life in besieged Misrata throws up many questions, blogs Alex Thomson. Why, for example, were thousands of migrant workers allowed to gather close to the port, where they inevitably became a target?

It must be asked why thousands of migrant workers had been allowed to gather close to the port of Misrata. That is something the rebels who control this area need to explain.

Because, like it or not, the port in a civil war like this was always going to become a target.

And so it was that yesterday at least six shells came down in the dusty chaotic crossroads that houses these people, caught in the middle of somebody else’s war.

It is close to the port and right next to the currently abandoned vast steelworks whose idle blast furnaces mark the eastern edge of Libya’s third city.

At least 10 people were killed and a score injured, and they were still dealing with minor injuries when we were there today. These people quite naturally cannot understand why they have been singled out.

But that said, today was a much quieter day in Misrata. Where roads are not blocked by the debris of war, the traffic flows freely.

“It’s great, it’s great,” said Bashir.

“You can drive how you want. There are no bloody traffic cops”.

When people start enjoying these bizarre privileges of war, it is always a sign that they have stopped worrying about whether they are going to see tomorrow.

And that, for a moment, is a good thing to savour in this town which has seen 70 days of bombardment.

Follow Alex Thomson on Twitter: @alextomo