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  Updated: January 26, 2007

Karbala authorities on high alert marking Ashura

By: Ismail Zabeeh

BAGHDAD, Iraq: The day of Ashura, which falls this year on 30 January, draws millions of mourners from other Iraqi provinces and beyond the country to the holy city of Karbala. Health and security authorities in the holy city have been put on high alert.

"We are ready for any emergencies. More medicine and medical equipment have been brought from Baghdad and other provinces. Doctors and other health employees will be on duty round the clock," said Dr Sadiq Abdullah of Al-Hussein Hospital, the city's main hospital.

"We've reserved 50 percent of the hospital's 410 beds for emergency cases during this very important ceremony. Two big tents have been erected with about 30 beds just next to the emergency section," Abdullah added.

Each year, millions of mourners march, chant and tens of thousands shed their blood from heads, chest and backs in ritualistic processions through Karbala.

"This year, we have asked for 10 more ambulances from the nearby provinces of Babil and Najaf, where doctors will also be ready to come here in case we need them. We have also managed to stock more disinfectants, bandages and intravenous fluids. Mobile medical teams will be roaming the streets," Abdullah said.

Furthermore, Karbala police officers have said that all roads leading to the city will be sealed off to traffic and more than 8,000 security personnel will be deployed to accompany the Ashura procession.

Spokesman for Karbala police Abdul-Rahman Mashawi said: "There will be check points everywhere to ensure the safety of the pilgrims as motor vehicles will be banned."  


 
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