Baghdad, Aug. 20 (Reuters): As the UN today insisted its staff would stay in Iraq following the devastating bombing of its headquarters, one woman caught up in the blast vowed she would never work in the country again.
“I never thought that we would be targeted, but the fact we were and in such a hostile manner has changed my whole way of thinking,” said Kim Bolduc, who was lucky to survive the explosion that killed 20 of her UN colleagues.
“I was the only one who was conscious and could walk out of the room,” she said at Baghdad’s Shahid Adnan hospital where she is being treated for injuries to her head, back and hands.
“All the others in the room were unconscious and covered in blood,” she added, shaking her head in disbelief.
Bolduc, a development co-ordinator, had called a meeting yesterday to discuss reconstruction when the powerful truck bomb ripped through the UN headquarters.
One moment she saw an Iraqi employee coming down the corridor carrying a cup of coffee, the next moment he had disappeared in a cloud of dust as the floor fell away.
She said a Unicef official at her meeting had died in the explosion, which also claimed the life of UN special envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello.
“There was a very big blast, and when the dust settled I saw many people lying around on the floor,” she said. “Everybody was hurt, some of them very seriously. It was so sudden. The flying glass and the blast did so much damage.” Bolduc, a Canadian who has worked for the UN for 18 years, said she would never return to work in Iraq. More than 100 people were wounded and rescuers were still scrabbling through the rubble for bodies late today.
Thomas Fuentes, a senior FBI agent investigating the blast, said it was caused by the detonation of at least 450 kg of military grade explosives.
At least 20 other wounded were lying bandaged at the Shahid Adnan hospital, most of them Iraqis who worked as support staff at the UN building. Doctors complained about shortages of medicines, power and water. At another hospital, some 40 wounded were being treated and doctors said two had died of their injuries.
James Haveman, a senior US adviser to the Iraqi ministry of health, said many of the injured would have to be evacuated to specialist clinics.