East Anglian aid worker in Baghdad blast

AN aid worker from East Anglia has spoken of the horrifying scene he encountered after arriving at the UN headquarters in Baghdad just an hour after a huge bomb had ripped through it.

AN aid worker from East Anglia has spoken of the horrifying scene he encountered after arriving at the UN headquarters in Baghdad just an hour after a huge bomb had ripped through it.

Chris Petch, a former pupil at Woodbridge School, has been in the Iraqi capital since June working as a programme manager for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

On the morning of Tuesday's attack he had been in the building for a meeting before heading back to his offices, and heard about the bomb on the radio.

The blast, which killed 18 people, including the UN special representative for Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello, and injured more than 100, was caused by a massive truck bomb carrying 1,500lbs of explosives.


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Ex-RAF squadron leader Mr Petch, 44, told the EADT of the 'enormous' impact the bomb has had on morale.

As he spoke on the satelleite phone from the rubble of the building, American and Australian soldiers could be heard barking out orders as an alarm went off in the background.

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"When we heard about it we came back to the headquarters to try and help.

"The corner of the building where Mr de Mello was, had been completely devastated, and there was broken glass and destroyed cars everywhere," he said.

"First aid posts had been set up all over the place and we just went up to people and talked to them, trying to help out. It's so very shocking because the people that were injured and killed were friends of ours – everything has become very, very personal.

"They are still pulling people out of the wreckage and we are trying to help in identification and things like that – I'm really helping with anything I can.

"It is a truly tragic thing to happen. I am fortunate to be alive, as many others are."

Mr Petch, whose parents live in Ipswich, also spoke of his fears for the remaining westerners in the country, saying that it seemed everyone was now a target for dissidents.

"There are a lot of people who are very shocked and worried about their own safety," he said.

"I had my own concerns about continuing operations here before the bomb – it's getting more and more difficult, if not impossible, to work in this country.

"I will have concerns for my safety if we have to continue operations here. I don't see we can continue our job in Iraq right now.

"The Iraqi people who I have had dealings with are all very friendly but there's a general mixture of those that want us to help make the country better, while others are very frustrated and angry at how long it's taking, and the lack of basic requirements."

Mr Petch who now lives in Bristol, said he feels it would be better for the UN to pull out of Iraq – probably to Oman – while the country is stabilised.

"There are people who think it's a good idea to stay but they are very much in the minority," he added.

"In my personal opinion, we should leave the country. I think the Americans have got to make some very tough decisions about what is actually happening and being reported here.

Fiona Watson, 35, a political affairs officer in Mr Vieira de Mello's office from Pittenweem in Fife, Scotland was one of at least 20 people who were killed in the blast.

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