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Baghdad Quiet Ahead of War - 2003-03-19

In what may be the few remaining hours before missiles and bombs begin raining down on Iraq, the country's capital has reportedly become very quiet. Observers in Baghdad say the usual hustle and bustle of the city is all but gone.

In a city known for its daily traffic jams, there are none. Reports out of the Iraqi capital say shops that usually open early are closed. Observers in Baghdad say some shop owners have locked the metal shutters on their stores and emptied their shelves, placing their inventory in safer storage areas.

Places where Iraqi men traditionally gather to talk, drink coffee and smoke shisha are said to be empty.

Schools are closed.

Reporters in Baghdad have seen many residents of the Iraqi capital packing their families and their belongings and moving to areas outside the city hoping to avoid the devastation of war.

Most of those staying behind have told reporters they have been trying to stock up on basic supplies of food, water, medicine, and fuel. In fact, the only place where traffic can reportedly be found is at gasoline stations, where Iraqis have waited for hours to fill up their tanks and to buy fuel for newly purchased generators to supply electricity in case central power supplies are cut.

Several news agencies have reported prices for all commodities have doubled and even tripled.

A television correspondent reported the streets, at night, are virtually empty. Restaurants, shops, and grocery stores are closed. The scene was described as eerie.

During the past several months many Iraqis have been digging wells in their yards to supply water. Others have been constructing underground shelters.

Reports from Baghdad say while there does not appear to be a panic among Iraqi citizens, the civilians are telling news correspondents there is a deep concern and resignation that war in their country, has become a virtual certainty.