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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Liberians Looting Monrovia Port

Aired August 13, 2003 - 11:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We also want to take you now to another developing story, actually some breaking news we're getting. Chaos and confusion in Liberia now as hundreds if not thousands of people are raiding the main port in Monrovia.
We are going to go live right now to our Jeff Koinange who is standing by with the very latest on the situation.

Jeff, what's happening there?

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, Heidi, I've never seen this unbelievable scene. Civilians, literally, like he said, thousands of them, taking whatever they can on their heads and wheelbarrows, however they can, then looting the port area that's supposed to be surrendered to the peacekeepers in less than 24 hours. Some of them literally under the eyes of the Lurd rebels. The rebels are letting them take whatever they can right now, because they're supposed to surrender this port.

Now, civilians have been holed up in their homes, as you know, for the past few weeks, a lot of them hungry, a lot of them without food, water, medicine. Today, they've been told is their day to take whatever you can, and it was basically -- we asked some of them, why are you looting the port? And they were telling us, well, Charles Taylor has gone, the rebels are telling us take what you want, and that's what they're doing, Heidi. Unbelievable scene.

COLLINS: And, Jeff, you say that the international peacekeepers should be coming in within 24 hours, right?

KOINANGE: That is correct. And in fact, we did see -- we noticed several cobra helicopter gunships patrolling the port area. So obviously the Americans are keeping an eye on this. But this -- the document does not take effect until 12:00 noon Thursday. There is nothing they can do about it. They can literally sit in their choppers and watch and wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, when tomorrow comes, there will be nothing left in this port area, Heidi. They are literally going on a free-for-all.

COLLINS: I'm wondering about violence, Jeff. We've been watching this situation unfold over the few weeks, a lot of violence going on. Are the people just going for the food, or is there violence through all of this?

KOINANGE: Well, the only violence is people fighting over sacks of flour, and rice and beans and all kinds of things. And here is a bit of irony for you, Heidi. The aid agencies, the humanitarian organizations, all have their warehouses right here in the port area, warehouses which contain sacks and sacks of everything, from rice to flour, some of them made in the USA. I see sacks in front of me saying, made in the USA. They are taking that, they are taking whatever they can, and some of them who aren't able to take are taking from people who are taking, so that's where the violence comes in, and they are not wasting time, Heidi. This place is being cleaned out literally by the minute.

COLLINS: All right, CNN's Jeff Koinange, reporting live from Monrovia.

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