BAGHDAD, IRAQ, DEC. 11 -- British and American citizens evacuated from Kuwait today after months of hiding spoke of heroic Kuwaitis who saved them from capture by Iraqi soldiers and smuggled them daily provisions.

They described the Persian Gulf kingdom, after more than four months of occupation by Iraqi troops, as a shell of a country -- a dirty, dangerous place where everything of value has been lifted and where the relatively well-trained troops who led the invasion have now been replaced by younger more unruly and greedy soldiers.

Without exception, those interviewed today said they wanted the world to know the Kuwaiti resistance movement is alive. They described Kuwait City and its environs as fortified by the Iraqis with plywood and cement machine-gun embankments, as well as a nascent system of tunnels where it appeared the occupation forces are storing arms, water and communication equipment.

In dozens of interviews today and Sunday at Saddam International Airport here -- where the evacuees stopped en route to Europe -- Westerners said Kuwaitis saved them time and again from capture, or found ways to get them what they needed to survive in hiding.

Alun Thomas, a British civil engineer, said Kuwaitis who hid foreigners in their homes risked their lives by answering the door of their residences and insisting to inquiring troops that, no, there were no Westerners inside.

A British citizen, who asked that his name not be used, said he was brought food by Kuwaitis who crawled inside the ventilation ducts of an apartment building where he was hiding.

Ralph Williams, a British employee of the National Bank of Kuwait who had lived in the country 14 years, said his Kuwaiti colleagues smuggled him food daily by passing it over a neighbor's garden fence at night.

Williams said many of his Kuwaiti friends had been detained by the occupying Iraqis. Some of them had managed to escape, he said, but others have not been heard from since the invasion began.

Some of his friends, Williams said, are being held there now, accused of helping foreigners, a crime that many believe has led to summary executions.

"The retribution now is very severe. They get shot on the spot, or hanged," said Maureen Baker, a British teacher's aide. "We couldn't have done it without Kuwaiti people. Their parting words to us were, 'Don't let the people forget.' "

The comments of the British evacuees today were similar to those made by many Americans on Sunday.

Evacuees said there are many more military checkpoints in the city than there were just after the invasion, but the soldiers who man them now are fewer in number and poorly trained and equipped.

The troops who conducted the invasion were described today as "professional" and "well mannered." But the younger soldiers who continued the occupation were different. Their uniforms were dirty, they carried small arms, and some even had mismatched shoes -- one boot, one tennis shoe -- said a group of British men.

Ken Watson, who opened a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label whiskey moments after he deplaned in Baghdad, said three young soldiers broke into his home in Kuwait one afternoon, tried to assault his wife and hit him across the face with a rifle butt when he interceded.

Watson said on another occasion he saw a group of young soldiers throw a grenade into a building that they believed to be full of Kuwaiti resisters. When a middle-aged Indian woman ran out, they shot her dead, he said, and when an Indian shopkeeper nearby ran from the scene, they shot him too. Later the soldiers burned both bodies in the street.

As of this afternoon, when the Westerners boarded the two evacuation flights in Kuwait City, the city was "quiet and very, very depressing," said Thomas.

Describing what he had seen of the city's fortifications, Thomas said he saw dump trucks load up on timber and sand, and then use it to build and camouflage "foxholes everywhere." He said he saw Iraqi soldiers haul water tanks and what looked like communication lines into the tunnels, which were especially noticeable near the shoreline.

Banker Williams said barbed wire rimmed the entire 12-mile waterfront, along which he said he drove Monday night. It is there, he said, to thwart an attack by sea.

Leonard Baker, Maureen Baker's husband, said many of the hundreds of small boats along the docks have been sunk or burned.

Williams and another bank employee, Anthony Shoult, both British, described concrete-block gun emplacements at many intersections. Others told of gun stations built of plywood near the British Embassy.

None of the persons interviewed saw any Iraqi military aircraft other than helicopters, which make frequent forays above the city.

Some British men reported having heard or seen bus and car bombs as late as last week, which they attributed to the Kuwaiti resistance movement. Baker said he witnessed a bomb explosion at a shop selling bread that, at the time, was being patronized by 10 to 15 Iraqi soldiers.

All of the evacuees interviewed described streets strewn with trash and with abandoned, stripped and in some cases, burned cars. The runways of the civilian airport were dotted with cement blocks and stripped cars to prevent landings.

They described stores whose complete inventories have been emptied, their windows smashed and some of them gutted by fire.

{"What I have seen in Kuwait is exactly like '1984,' " a Canadian evacuee told special correspondent Steve Vogel today in Frankfurt, Germany, referring to George Orwell's description of a bleak, authoritarian state. "The intention of the Iraqi regime is to force the systematic depopulation of Kuwait."

{An Irish evacuee, who like the Canadian asked to remain anonymous, said, "Even by Genghis Khan's {standards} it's pretty savage."}

Leonard and Maureen Baker said that from their apartment balcony in Riggae, a suburb of Kuwait City, they could see the daily pilfering and watch "thousands and thousands" of Kuwaiti and Iraqi trucks being loaded with food, furniture and electronic merchandise.

One day they witnessed soldiers removing and carting away the air-conditioning unit from a nearby medical clinic. Another day they saw Iraqis use a huge crane to lift the walls away from a small repair shop; its contents were then emptied.

Schools, said Maureen, the teacher's aide, have been taken over by the army and school desks and chairs stolen.

"We call Kuwait the headquarters of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves," joked Leonard Baker.

An Irishman named Kevin, arriving from Kuwait City, said that the skeleton staff of the U.S. Embassy there blasted Christmas carols from the outdoor loudspeakers this week.

Correspondent Glenn Frankel reported from London:

Dr. Gisli Sigurdsson, an Icelander who headed the intensive care unit of Mubarak Kabir hospital in Kuwait City, told a Times of London reporter in Amman, Jordan: "Every day of the week young people were being brought in with gunshot wounds in the chest. Shooting was the common punishment used even for minor crimes. Often it was carried out on the spot, without any further attempt at interrogation or trial."

The doctor described an instance when an Iraqi soldier who broke into a bread line shot a Kuwaiti man who complained. He said black marketeers were also shot.

Sigurdsson denied that babies had been pulled out of their incubators at his hospital, as has been charged by Kuwaiti exiles. "However, lots of babies died because of lack of staff," he said, adding that Iraqi doctors ransacked the library at his teaching hospital.

The looting included hospital equipment, computers, phone booths, furniture, even paving stones, plus some 2,000 Arabian horses, by evacuees' accounts.

Estimates of the devastation range from $20 billion to $50 billion and the amount of time needed to rebuild at up to four years. Kuwait's exiled government has put the total price tag at $64 billion for stolen property, damage and unpaid debts -- the $14 billion Iraq owed to Kuwait from the Iraq-Iran war.

The loss estimates include Kuwait's entire 18-month stockpile of food and medicines, plus about $2 billion in equipment from the 12 major hospitals. The value of stolen spare parts and supplies of special additives at refineries alone amount to $500 million, according to the government.