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Michael Holmes: Baghdad powerless and dry

CNN's Michael Holmes
CNN's Michael Holmes

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Many Iraqis disappeared under Saddam Hussein, but hopes burn that loved ones will be found alive. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Baghdad still lacks basic necessities, including water and electricity. CNN correspondent Michael Holmes reports about what this means for living conditions in the Iraqi capital.

HOLMES: ... One thing that has just come in to us is that a World Food Programme truckload of some 1,300 tons of food has managed to make its way into Baghdad, despite the security situation. One of the things that has been complained about here is that security has prevented things like food -- and particularly medicine -- from getting into the capital.

Now, the crucial point of contention in this city is electricity. There have been more than two weeks without power in this city. Every day we get told, "It'll probably be on tomorrow." It hasn't happened yet.

One of the problems is that the generators that start up at the main plants need to be given a kick-start to get going. The other problem is in the streets themselves. Many of the power lines going from suburb to suburb, street to street, are down, and work is being done on them.

When the power may come back on, people have pretty much stopped predicting. They just hope that it's soon.

It leads to another problem and that's water supplies. Power is used in many parts of the city to generate pumping stations for water. And water supplies in the city are patchy, to say the least. The water is out here where we are staying now. It has been out in some parts of Baghdad.

Water treatment plants that have been damaged or have ceased to function are being repaired. Meanwhile, a lot of people are actually going out and trying to get water in buckets and taking it home.

One final slice of life, if you like. We're in a place where the phone system simply does not work, as is the case in Baghdad. We have these phones called Thurayas. They're like a cell phone except they go straight up to a satellite and allow us to communicate outside of the city.

Well in the last few days, some local entrepreneurs have managed to get themselves some of these Thurayas and they are charging people $10 a minute to use these phones to call their family and friends outside of the country, perhaps to let them know that they are safe or for whatever reason. And I can tell you, the going rate for Thurayas is about anywhere between $2 and $5 a minute, depending on which country you're in. And $10 a minute is certainly a healthy profit for some of those entrepreneurs.

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