"Most of them are without water," said Adel Attar, an engineer with the Red Cross, referring not only to the 1.3 million residents of Basra but to the 6 million residents of southern Iraq.
One problem is that residents have begun stealing water by punching holes into pipelines. "Kalashnikovs," Attar said of the preferred method for doing that. Another is that one of the main water supply pipes is cracked and will take at least a week to fix. But the biggest problem is lack of electricity, which has meant the system is running on generators that can get water to only a few sections of the city. More problems snowball from there.
The city's water director has fled. The city is too big to be supplied by tanker trucks. The drivers are afraid to venture through the city without security. Generators were heavily vandalized Tuesday and Wednesday. Looters made off with parts, batteries, water pumps and circuit breakers.
"And it's not only guarding the plants, it's the 50 people who work in the plants," said Andres Kruesi, who oversees Red Cross operations in southern Iraq. "They need security because if they go to work, their cars will be stolen."