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Bellini: Nasiriya dead could top 400

CNN's Jason Bellini

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

NASIRIYA, Iraq (CNN) CNN Correspondent Jason Bellini, accompanying U.S. Marines, spoke with CNN anchor Heidi Collins via videophone Sunday from the city of Nasiriya in southern Iraq, where some of the toughest fighting of the war has taken place.

COLLINS: What can you tell us about where you are?

BELLINI: I'm standing right now in front of Saddam Hospital in downtown Nasiriya. Now this is the hospital where the American POW [Jessica Lynch] was rescued just a few days ago.

And we've had a chance to look inside this hospital and see that there are other people here. [Lynch] was in a section of the hospital that was under the control of Saddam's warriors. There are injured people in that hospital. Here are some of them.

[Videotape shows numerous civilians in hospital beds, some with legs or arms missing.]

The children who will never play soccer again. The expectant mother who will be unable to lift her baby. The wounds that time won't heal.

Wounded civilians in Iraq are harder for us embedded with the U.S. military to see and report on than the bright and thrilling explosions that hurt them.

Today in Saddam Hospital in Nasiriya, we heard just a few of their stories.

Twenty-year-old Heider was eating breakfast when he heard a helicopter flying overhead, [followed by] an explosion, which killed his brother, wounded his father and made him an amputee.

Fifteen-year-old Jesmack says he was walking down a street when a bomb hit nearby, sending shrapnel into his arms and legs.

The doctor who served as our guide and translator said more than 400 people have died in Nasiriya since the war began. Another 1,300 have been injured. The hospital, woefully unprepared, is operating without enough power, water and medicine.

In Saddam Hospital, Saddam Hussein's picture is two-thirds down, but civilian suffering is far from over.

[End videotape]

As if Saddam Hospital didn't have enough problems, they've also been hit by looters. And that's been a big problem throughout this city, now that there's no one really in control locally.

None of the police are working. You don't have any of the Baath Party officials keeping people in check. There's been looting in almost all of the government buildings.

There's a mosque just about a half-mile from where we are. We heard in the last few days, coming from the loudspeaker, the imam telling people, "Stop stealing stuff, because eventually we are going to have to rebuild this country and the next government is going to have to spend a lot of money to replace the things you are stealing. Please bring them back and please stop."

COLLINS: Jason, [we're] wondering about any supplies that might be making their way into this hospital, whether it be from the coalition forces or the Red Cross. ...

BELLINI: Heidi, the first thing that's being provided for at this hospital is fresh water. The Marines that I'm with have facilities for making fresh water. They are bringing that to this hospital and to another hospital that has a maternity ward.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.

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