Picking up the pieces in Kisangani

 After the last of the Rwandan and Ugandan troops left the Kisangani over the weekend, shell-shocked residents began to return to the city. Electricity and water supplies have been restored to most parts of Kisangani, UN observers confirmed. Days of heavy bombing left more than 600 dead and many more injured. Whole residential areas were destroyed leaving hundreds homeless, aid agencies report. Fr Fermo Bernasconi, vice superior of the Comboni Missionaries said: "Kisangani is in a terrible state, but the people have a strong will to live". Life was gradually returning to normal, he explained. "But each day is a struggle, given that the distribution of first necessity provisions is scarce and prices have risen considerably." Several missionary buildings were badly damaged during the conflict. The Mapendano Institute run by Franciscan missionary sisters was hit during the bombing. A high school run by the Dehonian missionaries was partially destroyed. The Montfortan fathers lost three houses, and the Combonis lost two. "The material damage cannot be compared to the psychological damage suffered by the civil population, especially the children," Fr Fermo said. Throughout the battles, hundreds of civilians sheltered with the missionaries in church, community centres and schools. More than 200 crammed into the Dehonian school at Plateau Boyoma. The foreign troops were reported to be more than 100 kilometres from the city last night (Monday) and residents are beginning to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. But one aid worker said many are still very fearful that the soldiers could come back.

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