26 Apr 2011

In sight of Misrata

Alex Thomson blogs from four miles off the coast of Misrata, on board a ship bringing relief supplies to the besieged city.

It is mid-afternoon and the Red Star ferry is desperate to enter the port of Misrata – and yet we remain at anchor a few miles off shore.

International Organisation for Migration officials on board are phoning Nato right now to clarify the situation in the port. The captain believes there are two pro-Gaddafi ships intent upon stopping any vessel from entering Misrata.

As I write this, on deck I can make out the port and the chimneys of the city’s steelworks in the haze. And right now I am hearing overhead the distant roar of a Nato jet, invisible in the hazy sky.

From my vantage point, however, I can see no other vessels in this ocean at all. However, it seems until the situation is clarified we will remain at anchor in sight of Misrata – but not in port.

UPDATE: 18.16

We’ve not been a sea for around 24 hours and for several of those we’ve been at anchor on the Albanian Ferry Red Star about four miles off the port of Misrata.

As things stand the captain and owner of the vessel say they are unwilling to risk its safety by attempting to enter the port.

A few moments ago the usual distant sound of artillery was interrupted by two much larger explosions. Plumes of smoke rose from the horizon about ten miles south of Misrata.

That is the area from which pro-Gaddafi forces have been shelling the town. It assumed these were NATO strikes either from the air or from the Italian naval frigate which sits currently a mile or two to the port side of the Red Star.

Whatever effect the strikes may have had they have not stopped the shelling which continues with renewed intensity as I write.

As it is we can see little in the haze of the town – the third largest in Libya – but the thump of the shelling has continued all day long.

On deck surgeons, anaesthetists and doctors look to the shore and wonder they may finally disembark and reach the people in the city’s one remaining hospital, who so desperately need their expertise.

Read Alex Thomson’s earlier blog, Waiting to enter besieged Misrata