After the battle: Mosul looks to rise from the ashes

MOSUL, Iraq: The battle over, it's now time to start rebuilding Iraq's second city, parts of which were literally flattened during the offensive against holed up jihadists of the Islamic State group.

But before this can happen, the chaotic mess caused by the conflict that devastated Mosul must be cleared away.

Standing outside his damaged house in the west of the city, Manaf Yunes looked on as a worker removed rubble from a balcony.

"I don't have any money because I haven't been paid for three years. I had to borrow to be able to begin renovating," the 57-year-old former official said.

On July 10, the authorities announced they had defeated IS in Mosul after a nine-month campaign that unleashed destruction of almost unimaginable dimensions on the ancient city.

According to a preliminary assessment, it will cost more than $1 billion (RM4.28 million) just to restore basic services such as running water, electricity, schooling and medical care to all of Mosul, said Lise Grande of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

The western sector was the hardest hit.

"The levels of destruction we are seeing are the worst in Iraq. Western Mosul represents one of the largest and most complex stabilization challenges the UN has faced," Grande told AFP.

West Mosul has been eviscerated, its buildings have collapsed or shattered, craters in the road sprouting tangles of misshapen and broken water pipes.

Restoring basic services

According to Abdel Sattar Habbo of the local municipality, more than 90% of west Mosul's infrastructure and public services were destroyed.

And the figure for private property is nearly as high, at 70%.

He put the cost of the damage at several billion dollars and said between three and four months would be needed just to "stabilize" the west of the city.

By that he meant bringing back on line – even partly – necessities including water, power and public services to enable "a return to life".

"Based on preliminary assessments, we estimate that $470 million is needed to help restore the main electricity, water, and sewage grids and rehabilitate key public facilities including hospitals, schools and houses in the most heavily damaged neighborhoods in western Mosul," said the UNDP's Grande.

In the old town, where the jihadists battled to the last in the final hours of the most ferocious clashes, "almost one-third of the housing stock is most likely severely damaged or completely destroyed", the UN wrote in a recent report.

Erfan Ali, head of the UN Human Settlements Programme in Iraq, told AFP that despite the destruction, the medical sector was already on the mend.

"Some major hospitals ... have been almost completely destroyed," he said, while others were "completely looted and burned" when Mosul was under IS occupation.

"However, the health sector is gradually recovering, and almost half of the hospitals are currently working, which means in most cases that some floors have been rehabilitated," he said.

Laying new pipes

In the east of the city, a semblance of normal life has resumed, with crowded streets and shops and restaurants again open for business.

And in west Mosul, despite the widespread destruction, hesitant steps are already being taken to bring the area back to life.

As rubble is removed, workmen from the municipality lay new pipes in trenches dug in roadways to repair the sewerage system.

While they await the beginning of major reconstruction projects, residents of battered Mosul must do what they can to cope.

For electricity, they rely on neighborhood generators, and water is supplied by tank trucks or NGOs.

Aid groups have given out "construction kits" of wooden planking, plywood panels and tarpaulins to nearly 12,700 families, said Melany Markham, a spokesperson in Iraq for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Outside Manaf Yunes's house in the west of the city, there are now bags of cement and stacks of breeze blocks.

The front of his home bears the scars of war. A booby-trapped vehicle exploded outside the building, blowing in its windows and destroying part of the balcony.

A wooden board now covers a large hole in his bathroom wall.

"We built this house bit by bit," he said, gloomily, and now work must begin again. — AFP