Main Iraqi port closed as one dies, 25 injured in Basra protests

BASRA: Iraq’s main seaport closed down on Thursday following clashes between protesters and security forces in the nearby southern city of Basra in which one demonstrator died and 25 were injured the previous night.
Southern Iraq, heartland of the country’s majority, has erupted in unrest in recent weeks as protesters express rage over collapsing infrastructure, power cuts and corruption.
Port employees said that all operations had ceased on Thursday morning at Umm Qasr Port — the main lifeline for grain and other commodity imports that feed the country — after protesters blocked the entrance. Trucks and staff were unable to get in or out of the complex.
Officials announced a citywide curfew would be in place after 3 pm local time, but cancelled it just as it was due to come into force. A senior security source said that a heavy deployment of security forces —including members of the rapid response team — would be on patrol in Basra to enforce the curfew and impose calm.
Residents in Basra, a city of more than 2 million people, say the water supply has become contaminated with salt, making them vulnerable and desperate in the hot summer months. Hundreds of people have been hospitalised from drinking it.
A health ministry spokesman told a news conference in Baghdad that 6,280 people had been recently hospitalised with diarrhoea due to the oversalinated water.
The protesters began blocking the entrance to Umm Qasr Port, which lies about 60 km from Basra, on Wednesday. — Reuters