Looters strip Red Cross depots in coup-hit C.Africa

Looters in the coup-hit Central African Republic have stripped aid depots run by the International Committee of the Red Cross, threatening its ability to deal with the humanitarian crisis there, it said Wednesday.

"The buildings we use to store equipment and food have been looted in Bangui. The bulk of the food has been stolen," ICRC spokesman Marie-Servane Desjonqueres told AFP in Geneva.

"Acts like this endanger the work of the ICRC. Most of these supplies could have helped us deal with the emergency," she added.

The housing used by the ICRC's expatriate staff was also targeted, she said.

The Geneva-based humanitarian organisation, which focuses on conflict zones, remains concerned about the situation in the troubled nation.

The Seleka rebel coalition seized power in a deadly offensive in the impoverished nation over the weekend after the collapse of a fragile two-month-old peace deal, forcing the president, Francois Bozize, into exile.

On Wednesday, said Desjonqueres, the ICRC was able to redeploy staff in Bangui for the first time since the rebels took over the capital.

ICRC aid workers have now been able to visit hospitals to meet with the wounded and assess the ability of medical facilities to cope.

Previously, only emergency workers from the Central African Republic's Red Cross had been able to help evacuate the wounded and the bodies of those killed, she said.

She said the ICRC was still trying to take stock of needs on the ground.

"Our priority for now is to be able to move around more widely," she said.

The ICRC has seven expatriate staff and 129 local employees in the Central African Republic.