Life in Iraq: Can`t spend another day here, say Indian nurses trapped in Tikrit

Trapped inside a hospital in Tikrit, with mind-boggling bomb explosions bursting every now and then, life of the 46 Indian nurses stuck in Saddam Hussein`s hometown is almost hanging by thread.

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: Jun 30, 2014, 17:02 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Baghdad: Trapped inside a hospital in Tikrit, with mind-boggling bomb explosions bursting every now and then, life of the 46 Indian nurses stuck in Saddam Hussein`s hometown is almost hanging by thread and they want to be evacuated from there as soon as possible.

With Iraq crisis worsening with each passing day, all the 46 Indian nurses stuck in the embattled town of Tikrit are facing increasing fears as Iraq Army battle the ISIS fighters to retake the town, resulting in fierce clashes.

Talking to the BBC, one of the Indian nurses named Marina Jose recounted the horror of living in a hospital ward with bombs being lobbied from the helicopters.

"We cannot live here another day. The entire night we have only heard bombs bursting all around the hospital" - Marina Jose told the BBC.

Jose said how one of the nurses in the large ward-turned-dormitory at the hospital had "developed fits last night” and she was attended to by the lone doctor at the hospital, Dr Ali.

“Can`t Spend Another Day Here”

Another nurse who refused to reveal her identity also spoke similarly about the hazardous circumstances in Tikrit, saying “we cannot spend another day here."

“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, another nurse told the BBC.

The nurses however sounded satisfactory about the food supplies being delivered to them and said that they were being provided with freshly cooked vegetarian food along with tea and milk, said the BBC.

One of the nurses suggested that they should first be evacuated to another area in Iraq safer than Tikrit, saying, "we just don`t feel safe at all here".

Tikrit is witnessing a fierce battle between the ISIS and Iraqi forces since Friday when the government troops armed with tanks and helicopter gunships launched an offensive and claimed to have retaken the strategic town from the militants. However they had to retreat to a nearby city of Dijla as the ISIS militants fought back.

The BBC cited eyewitnesses as saying that Iraqi troops had to bear a strong counter-attack by various factions controlling Tikrit and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (isis), who shot down a helicopter and captured the pilot.

The battle for Tikrit has continued to rage and the Indian nurses are bearing the brunt of the assault.

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

However despite the danger looming large over entire Iraq with the ISIS having declared a Caliphate on Sunday, the majority of the nurses are in two minds about returning to India.

More than 30 nurses have preferred to be posted to some safer areas in Iraq rather than to return to India, because of the loans they have borrowed for study and jobs.

Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday met the families of the trapped nurses and assured them of their safety.

"It is natural for the families to be concerned. I showed them the letter from our ambassador there, which says the Indians in Iraq are safe," she said. 

"We are in touch with them through Red Crescent, but we have not been able to establish direct contact with them so far, as there is constant firing on the streets. We are trying to get in touch with them directly," she added.

The minister, however, clarified that even if direct contact is established with the Indians there, the government may not be able to rescue them immediately due to the ongoing fighting.