"A water shortage described as the most critical since the earliest days of Iraq's civilisation is threatening to leave up to 2 million people in the south of the country without electricity and almost as many without drinking water.
An already meagre supply of electricity to Iraq's fourth-largest city of Nasiriyah has fallen by 50% during the last three weeks because of the rapidly falling levels of the Euphrates river, which has only two of four power-generating turbines left working.
If, as predicted, the river falls by a further 20cm during the next fortnight, engineers say the remaining two turbines will also close down, forcing a total blackout in the city.
Down river, where the Euphrates spills out into the Shatt al-Arab waterway at the north-eastern corner of the Persian Gulf, the lack of fresh water has raised salinity levels so high that two towns, of about 3,000 people, on the northern edge of Basra have this week evacuated. 'We can no longer drink this water,' said one local woman from the village of al-Fal. 'Our animals are all dead and many people here are diseased.'"