HUMAN shield Antoinette McCormick told today of the daily terror of life in Baghdad. The 38-year-old York woman, speaking exclusively to the Evening Press, revealed she has now fulfilled her original aim of becoming a shield to avert Allied bombing of civilian sites.

She said she had been staying at a hotel until yesterday, but deployed last night to an electrical plant.

"There was heavy bombing, and I was frightened when I woke, but I prayed and went back to sleep," she said.

"It is a dangerous time. Rockets and missiles have fallen for days. Residences and people as well as palaces and infrastructure have been blown up.

"I do not know the cost yet to civilians, but these people suffer - they are brave, steady, and frightened. The hotel rocks. Smoke plumes rise everywhere.

"From the hotel, on the roof till we were kicked off, I have seen all over town tremendous blasts shaking the city, lighting the night sky, and anti-aircraft and sirens keep us keyed up.

"The Iraqis are fighting hard and well, as you know. I hear we may be under siege soon. I doubt it will be an easy victory - these people are proud."

Antoinette's emailed message came via her parents, John and Mairi, of Huntington Road, York, after they had heard nothing from her since Friday night and were becoming alarmed for her safety.

Funded in her shield mission by York Quakers, Antoinette travelled to Baghdad on a tourist visa last week, arriving overland from Jordan only hours before the war began.

At one stage, she abandoned the idea of becoming a shield, fearing she would be a liability to other shields, and also concerned that she might be forced by the Iraqi Government to go to a military site.

But she said today: "It is wrong to run now, and stupid. I thought it was wrong, for me, to stay in safety in this hotel, where we have our office.

"The past two months have brought out strength in me I never knew I had. I learned recently some sites have no military connection. I therefore volunteered yesterday to change my visa status to human shield.

"I had always wanted to deploy to strategic non-military sites, like water purification, food silos, electricity plants, even oil refineries - vital to civilian life. I will continue to visit bomb sites and hospitals by day.

"No shields have yet been killed. My job, as I see it, is to help as I can, witness, go to hospitals, share my attentions with all, and survive if I can.

"The roads out are very unsafe - bombed buses and dead bodies are strewn on the road to Jordan, where I worked till a few days ago."

She added that the people of Iraq, in her experience, had been courageous and hospitable.