CARE warns of major humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq

SYDNEY, Dec 17 (South News) -An Australian aid agency Thursday warned of a major humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq following air strikes by the United States and Britain.

CARE Australia said the effects of the bombings coupled with existing damage to the country's infrastructure would see the humanitarian situation dramatically exacerbated after eight years of sanctions.

"If the electricity goes out across Iraq large numbers of people will be left without drinking water and other essentials," said Robert Yallop, CARE's director of overseas operations who has just returned from the country.

"We could literally see sewage start to back-up in the streets as the country plunges towards catastrophe."

Fifteen CARE Australia workers are in the country and have decided to remain there.CARE is the only Australian aid agency still working on the ground in Iraq.

CARE spokesman Antony Funnell says the 15 Australian aid workers have taken precautions.

"At this stage, the staff are staying put where they are," Mr Funnell said. "We've got a humanitarian mission to put forward there in Iraq and as soon as possible we'll be continuing that.