March 25th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Libyans flee fighting in Ajdabiya, end up in harshness of desert

Arwa Damon

Ajdabiya, Libya (CNN) - Outside the Libyan city of Ajdabiya, tents have sprouted in the rolling desert, where the sands blow and farmers grow figs and grapes.

In the city, a fierce fight rages for control between the Libyan opposition and forces loyal to strongman Moammar Gadhafi, whose tanks lob shells to push their foes back.

At night, coalition planes roar overhead, pounding Gadhafi's positions. Early Friday, British jets pounded Libyan armored vehicles. But they have not been able to stop the battle on the ground, and residents are escaping to safer ground.

"I couldn't even begin to describe to you the horror that I have seen," one man said. "Leaving Ajdabiya, we saw dead bodies in the street. No one would ever dare go to recover them."

He fled his hometown with his six children this week. One of his sons, maybe about 10, cradles his head as his father talks. He cries quietly.

Other children gather around. When an oil tanker barrels down the road, they freeze and then scatter in fear.

The people here have nothing: no change of clothes, not even water. They sleep on thin sheets of plastic and think they will keep themselves warm at night with firewood in a tin box that is only 1 foot in diameter.

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