New Delhi: Indian nurses stranded in northern Iraq have been living like prisoners at a state-run hospital in Tikrit after being abandoned by their employers as well as the military, reports said Tuesday.
"We are literally leading a life of prisoners. We can't step out of hospital premises. We can hear blasts from everywhere. All Iraqi officials have fled and we are without any security. In fact some of the Red Cross volunteers helped us to recharge our SIM cards," said Marina Jose, a resident of Kottayam.
Since the insurgents launched their lightning assault on June 9, they have captured Mosul, a city of two million people, and a big chunk of mainly Sunni Arab territory stretching south towards the capital.
Around 46 nurses are stuck in hospitals in Tikrit and 41 construction workers in Mosul since the past four days when Sunni Islamist militant group Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Isis) overran key cities in a crisis the United Nations said was an existential threat to Iraq.
India has requested the International Red Crescent to go across to Tikrit and ensure the nurses' safety, according to foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbarudin.
The Indian foreign ministry said the situation in Iraq was receiving "high priority" but ruled out any immediate emergency evacuation of its nationals.
"Crisis management meeting underway on situation in Iraq and possibilities of assistance to Indian nationals," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin posted on Twitter on Tuesday, adding that a "24 hour control room to provide information on Iraq."
According to IANS, the Indian government is also keeping its options open for possible evacuation if the situation demands.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Joseph said out of 44, 32 nurses had expressed willingness to come back and the Kerala government “would do everything to ensure their safe return.”
Since road and communication networks were badly damaged, the Indian Embassy has advised them to remain in their hospitals for now, the minister added.