Iraq crisis: Tikrit nurses' plea for help as fighting rages

By Imran Qureshi
BBC Hindi

image copyrightReuters
image captionIraqi forces are hoping to take back Tikrit from Sunni rebels

A group of Indian nurses working in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit say they are petrified following the bombings on Saturday near the casualty department of the teaching hospital where they have been stranded since Isis ran amok in the area two weeks ago.

"We cannot live here another day. The entire night we have only heard bombs bursting all around the hospital," Marina Jose, one of the 46 stranded nurses, told BBC Hindi by phone.

"Yesterday, three cars near the casualty department were burnt when a bomb was thrown from a helicopter."

One of the nurses in the large ward-turned-dormitory at the hospital had "developed fits [seizures] last night. The lone doctor at the hospital, Dr Ali, came and attended to her", Jose said.

Jose's demand to be evacuated from Tikrit immediately was echoed by another nurse who did not want to be identified. This nurse lives in another wing of the hospital with several others.

The nurse said: "The building shakes every time there is a bomb blast close by. The officials of the Red Cross came here three days ago. They said when the road [to Baghdad] is clear, we will bring the vehicles to take you out. But we cannot spend another day here."

"Food is being delivered to us. From where, we do not know. But it is freshly prepared non-vegetarian food. Tea and coffee is delivered with milk powder," the nurse added.

'Changing minds'

Both Jose and the unnamed nurse have a common point - that there are no patients at the hospital, only a doctor and a menial staff.

"No-one wants to stay in this place," said Jose, who was among the first 14 members out of the 46 who expressed the desire to return to India. The 32 others initially did not want to return but to be posted elsewhere in Iraq because they had taken out loans to study and pay recruitment agencies to secure the job.

"Now about 35 members want to come back to India. They are... changing their minds every day. We cannot say anything because of this tension of bombing. We do not know when one of them will fall on us," said Jose.

The other, unnamed nurse had a slightly different point to make: "First of all, we need to be removed from Tikrit to some other safe place in Iraq. We just don't feel safe at all here."

Both the nurses, however, said that they had not seen either the militants who were roaming around the hospital two weeks ago or any government troops.

"We don't know what is happening outside. We are here with bombs exploding all around us," said Jose.

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