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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
Eritrea appeals for UN help
Eritrean refugees
Eritrea says 200,000 people are affected
By Cathy Jenkins in Asmara

The Eritrean Government has asked the United Nations to help in coping with thousands of civilians who are fleeing an Ethiopian advance in the west of the country.

Eritrea says that 200,000 people are leaving the area affected by the battle, including the main town of Barentu.

They include many people who are living in temporary camps after having fled earlier fighting.


Eritrean refugees
The refugees need tents, blankets, relief food and water storage facilities
The battle on the Mereb Setit front has continued for a sixth day, with the Ethiopian army still on Eritrean territory.

Both sides have been sending in reinforcements.

Thousands of civilians are reported to be moving northwards on the roads leading away from the battle zone.

'Urgent' situation

One resident of Barentu said many people left on Sunday after Ethiopian planes bombed the town and a popular cafe area in the centre was hit, reportedly killing a family.

The witness said local people had been afraid the battle would move to the town itself after Eritrean tanks took up defensive positions on the streets.

The witness said cars and carts were full of belongings, and people drove or walked through the night to get away.

The UN's representative in Asmara, Simon Nhongo, said the Eritrean Government had asked the UN to help out in providing emergency supplies, such as tents, blankets, relief food and water storage facilities.

He said the UN was contacting private relief groups to ask what help they could offer.

The official Eritrean relief organisation has described the situation as very urgent.

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See also:

16 May 00 | Africa
More Eritreans rushed to front
17 May 00 | Africa
Horn fighting theatens refugees
16 May 00 | Africa
Battles rage in Eritrea
16 May 00 | Africa
US calls for Horn sanctions
16 May 00 | Africa
Arms flood to Horn conflict
13 May 00 | Africa
Call to end Horn war
11 May 00 | Africa
EU presses for Horn peace deal
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