By Libya Herald staff.
Benghazi/Tripoli, 1 January 2015:
Benghazi residents have had a bleak start to 2015, with a third day of power . . .[restrict]cuts, plummeting temperatures and gas shortages leaving many sitting huddled around candles while fighting continues outside.
The whole city was this evening reported to be in total darkness, to a backdrop of explosions and heavy gunfire as clashes continued despite the lack of power. Several areas, including the districts of Laithi and Huwari reported heavy fighting this morning, with clashes starting again in the early evening.
“It is completely miserable and horrible here,” one resident told the Libya Herald. “Some areas had no electricity since Monday and for the last three days the whole city has been without power.” He added that even households with generators had run out of the fuel to operate these.
The worsening situation in Benghazi, where daily power cuts have long been commonplace, has made many homes reliant on gas for cooking. However, supplies of bottled gas have now run out in some neighbourhoods, meaning that many households have had no hot food or drinks for several days.
One mother said she was concerned for the health of her young children, who had not eaten hot food for days. They were constantly needing to use the toilet she said, and were struggling with washing in cold water that could not be warmed at all.
Even this cold water is in short supply. With no electricity to run the pumps, household water tanks are running low.
“Three days feels like a really long time, especially because it is very cold here and now it gets dark early,” another resident said. “It’s been raining a lot and many places in the city are flooded. This is a terrible start to the year for us.”
The winter crisis has also seen further price hikes on already expensive basic items in Benghazi. The going rate for a single candle was now 750 dirhams, one resident said, adding that such candles were of a poor standard and burnt quickly. A bag of coal which, back in the summer cost around LD10-15, was now being sold in the city for LD50, although even at that price, it is apparently becoming scarce.
The already grave situation faced by Benghazi’s long-suffering residents looks set to worsen as people’s personal cash reserves run low. Most banks remain closed, ATMs do not work and people needing money are being forced to travel to nearby towns. “I have heard there is one bank still open in the Qwafi district but it’s very crowded with endless queues,” one local said.
“People are tired of this life, and now we don’t have TV and the phone signals are very poor, we don’t know what is happening in the city, either with the electricity or the fighting.” [/restrict]