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The BBC's Cathy Jenkins
"Very few of the them are thinking of staying"
 real 28k

Saturday, 3 June, 2000, 19:57 GMT 20:57 UK
The town 'stripped' by Ethiopians
Devastation found by the people of Barentu
Now the Ethiopians have moved on they have left little behind
By the BBC's Cathy Jenkins in Barentu

Eritrea's having to cope with hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the Ethiopian offensive which began last month.

Many of these will not be able to return to their homes in the near future, even if the fighting stops.

The western town of Barentu, which was briefly occupied by Ethiopians, was looted before they withdrew.

The people of Barentu are beginning to come back, tentatively in two's and three's; not yet to stay, but to see what happened to their homes.

A woman returns to find little left
All shops in the town were looted

What they are finding are looted shops and houses emptied of anything of worth.

Businessman Segit Gevrehewat can fit everything he found in his compound into a plastic bag - a few dirty clothes belonging to his children and the architect's drawings of his house which was built a year ago.

This was a man who, until the Ethiopian invasion, considered himself well-off with his store selling everything from grain to music.

In a hotel on the once busy town square, the owner steps over the broken bottle scattered over the floor of a back room.

All the mattresses from the beds are gone.

All that the owner found was a pile of potatoes too rotten to eat or take away.

Back for good?

The Ethiopians were in Barentu for only a few days but before they withdrew, they comprehensively stripped the small town.

Most of the people who have returned were packing whatever they found and catching buses back to the displaced camps or to the houses of friends where they have found temporary shelter.

They are not sure when they will back in their homes for good.

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Africa
Eritreans still defiant
31 May 00 | Africa
Ethiopia says 'war is over'
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