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  Our man in the Gulf: Matthew visits Iraq
Updated 03 April 2003, 08.39
The Ark Royal
BBC reporter and ex-Newsround presenter Matthew Price is reporting from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal in the Gulf.

Matthew Price
Our reporter, Matthew Price
And he's writing a web diary for CBBC Newsround.

In this instalment, he tells us about meeting Iraqi locals in the town of Al Faw .


Diary entry 22:

Today started early at five o'clock. By six I was in a helicopter skimming the surface of the waves.

We flew towards Iraqbut had to fly low and fast to avoid any missiles that might have been fired at us.

On board were a handful of Royal Marines, guns at the ready and concentrating hard. No one knew what to expect.

I couldn't believe that after weeks of reporting about the place, I was going to get to go in.

I was excited but not nervous.

Tense

We landed at seven in a dust bowl. I was a depressing and dirty sandy landscape.

All around us was the litter of war. There were broken lamp-posts an burnt-out vehicles.

We jumped into some vehicles and were driven round into the small town of Al Faw.

This was the first place British forces came to; they seem to have control now but it's still tense.

Children smiling and waving

It's a very poor place - most of the wealth that Iraq has comes through here.

This is where its oil comes to but little of that wealth goes to the people.

It reminded me of being in Palestinian-controlled areas in the Middle East - very poor, dirty, and depressing.

There were children smiling and waving everywhere, they seemed well dressed and tidy.

Asked for water

But the adults told us of their problems.

Mail arrives for the Ark Royal by Sea King helicopter
Mail arrives for the Ark Royal by Sea King helicopter
They don't have much water or food. They say the British and the Kuwaitis have promised them food but it's not arriving.

They seem to expect a great deal from the forces on the ground.

Some soldiers told me they are often asked for water, when they don't have much either.

But they say that they feel people are beginning to trust them more. They are getting used to seeing them around.

Mobbed

We went to the area some of the forces on the ground are staying in. It was an old hotel with no beds.

There are some journalists there curled up on stone floors with no showers. And I've been complaining about this ship?! No more, I promise!.

We jumped onto our vehicles again and went into the market area.

There isn't much food on sale here. I was mobbed as soon as I got off the vehicle and surrounded by adults and children.

They told me they had no water. "We want water," one man told me, but he looked quite healthy and fairly well-fed.

Jittery

None of the people I saw were the poorest I had ever seen. They are obviously facing big problems, but they still seem to have at least a little food, unlike others in Iraq who are in a desperate state.

I was surrounded and one of the marines with us later told me he'd been told if there was any sign of trouble, they'd reverse the vehicle up to me and grab me to pull me out.

They are still jittery. Only yesterday one of their vehicles was fired at. But they are trying to show people they are not there to hurt them. And people, they say, seem to believe that.

One man said: "Good the English soldiers. Good for us. For Iraqi, for Arab."

Quick trip

We carried on away from the market to the port. This was where a large aid shipment came in last week. Today it was empty. No ships seem to have followed and the aid, as the people here will tell you, is desperately needed.

We swung back to the British base camp where the helicopter was waiting for us to bring us back to Ark Royal.

It was a quick trip but it gave me an idea of what it's like in Iraq. It made me want to see it again so I can spend longer with the people there to find out what they really think and feel about what is going on in their country.



Watch/ListenBORDER=0
Matt on reporting on shipMatt on reporting on ship
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More InfoBORDER=0
WorldALL Matthew's Diaries
PicturesPix: Matthew's life on board
Find OutFull Iraq section
ClubYOUR reports

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Past StoriesBORDER=0
Our man in the Gulf: Crew are missing home
Our man in the Gulf: Matt's trip off the ship
Our man in the Gulf: Matthew's joke
Our man in the Gulf: Matt misses home

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