BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Destruction in Ramadi is “staggering” and worse than anywhere else in Iraq, a U.N. team concluded this week after making the first assessment visit to the city since its recapture from Islamic State.
It said the main hospital and train station had both been destroyed, along with thousands of other buildings. Local officials told the UN team 64 bridges and much of the electricity grid had been ruined.
Iraqi forces declared victory over the jihadist group in Ramadi in December and has since cleared most of the western Iraqi city. Islamic State fighters still hold pockets in the northern and eastern outskirts.
Its recovery boosted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in his campaign to oust the militants from their northern stronghold of Mosul later this year.
But more than six months of fighting shattered most infrastructure and levelled many homes in Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital where around half a million people once lived.
The fighting saw Islamic State bomb attacks and devastating U.S.-led coalition air strikes.
“The destruction the team has found in Ramadi is worse than any other part of Iraq. It is staggering,” said Lise Grande, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Iraq.
The two-day assessment found that nearly every building had been damaged or destroyed in frontline areas. In other districts, one in three or four buildings were damaged, it said.
U.N. analysis of satellite imagery last month showed nearly 5,700 buildings in Ramadi and its outskirts had been damaged since mid-2014, with almost 2,000 completely destroyed.
Grande said it was too early to say how much time and money it would take to rebuild.
The cash-strapped government in Baghdad is appealing to international donors to help the city, the largest retaken from Islamic State. It must first clear bombs planted by the militants in streets and buildings - an effort which also requires funding it lacks.
The assessment team said the greatest concentration of such explosives was reported in south-central Ramadi.
The United Nations is working with local authorities on plans to rebuild health, water and energy infrastructure.
The U.N. team said a water plant in central Ramadi could probably be repaired quickly.
It said it had identified four potential relocation sites for returning civilians. Iraq’s central government has yet to give the all-clear for the return of residents.
Reporting by Stephen Kalin; editing by Andrew Roche