Sharif, who works in Tripoli hospital's emergency room, said the regional network of hospitals is awaiting the arrival of a Libyan-Canadian vascular surgeon who has volunteered to visit and will be sent to the hospital in Yefren, two hours from Tripoli. Yefren, which loyalist forces abandoned last month, has taken much of the injuries from the fighting that only ended here three days ago.
Though shortages of blood and equipment have received more attention in recent days, Sharif said that supplies of surgical and post-surgical anesthesia are becoming critically low. He named Dormicam, Fentenyl, Xylocaine, and Valium as drugs that were dwindling, and said the injuries were requiring specialists.
"We have seen more shattered bones and injuries to the arteries than is normal for bullets," said Sharif. He attributed that to fragmenting ammunition he claims to have removed from injured on both sides. "We also need a neurosurgeon," he said. "The snipers. They aim for the head."
Such shortages in Tripoli are acute but have a peculiar inconsistency. Near the Avenue Omar Muqtar, a main road, a tanker truck was dispensing drinking water on Monday afternoon, across from a mini-mart fully stocked with soft drinks and juice. Price-gouging seems limited. A shopper named Khalid bought 30 eggs for four and a half Dinars, about the same price as before the fighting, he said. The shop's owner, a man in his 60s named Abdullah Adesaid Ben Shibbel, said he had raised prices a few percent because his distributor had, but that most of his customers were buying low-price staples anyway, and didn't seem to notice. "Macaroni, oil, tomato, couscous, rice, milk, diapers," had been flying since Saturday, when people started to brave the streets again, he said.
The shop's shelves were full, and both the freezer and the air conditioner were working. It was in many ways indistinguishable from an American mini-mart in peacetime. He did not know if his distributor would restock the shelves, though.
If there is a risk rising rather than falling Tripoli today, it is disease. The first sighting of a garbage truck in some time came on Monday afternoon, with two men grimly scooping up one of the orderly but long-neglected rows of refuse along the roads leading into town. You can now find your way to Tripoli by following a kilometers-long garbage berm, and no one seems to know when regular garbage collection will begin again.
Equally acute is a growing sewage crisis. It has been seven days since people in Tripoli could flush their toilets. This has exactly the effect one might imagine. Most blocks emit a nauseously septic smell, and homes are quickly becoming unlivable without constant buckets of water -- which is too precious to dump in the toilet.
Guns remain common and the city is ringed by checkpoints, most manned by teenagers. The checks themselves are desultory. Beyond the checkpoints, the center of the city will eventually become an enormous reconstruction job. Entire neighborhoods are blown to smithereens, less by the NATO missiles, which appear pinpoint, than by the hand to hand fighting in the streets, where weapons designed to fire into the air were at places used horizontally, in neighborhoods, to blast at snipers hiding in buildings. Not a wall in the neighborhoods around the former palace at Bab al-Aziziyah is intact. Homes are missing balconies.