Iraqi government forces have started pounding rebel-controlled areas, including Tikrit, and 46 stranded Indian nurses there have been moved to the basement of their hospital.
“Bearded boys have taken control of the Tikrit Teaching Hospital. Red Cross has asked them to hoist white flags. Still the area has been targeted twice in the past two days. Situation is really grave here,” one of the nurses told the Hindustan Times. (Names have been withheld for safety reasons).
Indian officials with the help of Google Map has also taken the location map of their hospital and requested both, rebels and government forces, not to target the hospital where these nurses were trapped.
“Earlier some of them wanted to relocate in peaceful areas of Iraq. But now almost everyone wants to get out,” she said. Though they faced severe food and water shortage for last two days things improved later. They were also given some tips by ‘bearded boys’ how to keep safe in case of heavy shelling.
For almost two weeks they have been holed up in their hospital. Though Red Cross and Indian Embassy officials are in touch with them they say they are really petrified.
Meanwhile, external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the nurses were “safe and unharmed” and in touch with the Indian mission.
“There has been bombing and firing in the vicinity of their (nurses’) building. They have taken refuge in the basement. They are in an extremely delicate situation. We have informed the Iraqi agencies of their location and we remain hopeful that despite these difficulties, we will be able to extricate them,” he added.
Most of the nurses came to the country last year after paying hefty amount to travel agents.
“Since power lines were cut off we couldn’t sleep most of the nights,” another nurse said.
According to Princy Seju, one of the nurses who came to India on vacation before the unrest begun, around 1,000 nurses from Kerala are working in different hospitals in Iraq. They earn around $750-1000 a month there.