Thursday, March 18, 2004

Hell (Day 2)

1500 CET:  All non-essential staff was ordered to go home and not return until tomorrow morning.  We are waiting for hand-held radios for emergency contact in case the telephone lines go down.  The cell service was overloaded before this now it is even worse with people calling around to check on friends and relatives.  The roads are still blocked with no indication of when they might be open.  The airport was also closed today by order of KFOR.  

1300 CET:  We have been directed to stay in the compound as people are gathering in central Pristina for a protest.  We ordered out for Thai food since some of us are hungry and hopefully it will be delivered before the compound is locked down.  We are also experiencing water and power shortages and have been requested to conserve as much as we can.

11:00 AM CET (Central European Time):  I spent last night in Pristina as full travel restrictions were placed Kosovo-wide for UN staff.  We turned off the lights around 10:30pm when automatic gunfire and explosions started in our area.  We tried watching local news and listen to local radio but information was sketchy at best.  For some reason, the broadcasting was mostly classical music rather than news of what was happening around Kosovo.  This morning, the death toll is at least 22 people with over 250 injured.  Fighting broke out in pretty much every region of Kosovo with violence against UN police and other populations.

Several Serbian houses in Cagalavica were burnt down along with Serbian government offices and a health center in Kosovo Polje.  This has been the worst outbreak of violence since the end of the war in 1999.
I am currently unable to go home for any of my belongings but luckily carry my important documents with me at all times.  I hope that this afternoon, things will be a bit more calm and I will be allowed to travel to my house to gather some clothes in order to stay in the capital for the next couple of days.  So far, my landlord says that things are okay in the area that I live.  I was a little worried about Smokey over the night since he was outside in his kennel.  I hope that I'll be able to go feed him...and maybe bring him to Pristina although I don't know where he would stay! 
One of my colleagues, Andriy, was very fortunate in that his apartment building (YU Project) was attacked (it is one of the few Serbian buildings in Pristina) but his apartment was untouched.  The vehicles in the picture above are from in front of his building...which the walls were still too hot to touch from the fires that were set to most of the apartments.  In another part of Pristina, Sunny Hill, at least three internationals were forced out of their apartments, robbed, and then the apartments set on fire.