'We are safe at the hospital, please pray for our safe return'
The nurses trapped inside Tikrit Teaching hospital in northern Iraq have been advised not head for the airport unless they get an assurance of safe passage. Rediff.com contributor Upasna Pandey reports
They are still connected with the world over telephone and continue to attend to their duties, but life hangs in balance for the 46 Indian nurses trapped inside the Tikrit Teaching hospital in northern Iraq as they hope for a safe passage out of the troubled country.
When Rediff.com contacted the nurses over repeated brief telephone calls -- interrupted due to poor signal -- they conveyed their message for family and friends. They said they were safe in the hospital for now and requested everyone to pray for their safety.
The nurses informed that there were fewer patients compared to last week in the 1,000-bed hospital, but patients were still coming in and they were being attended to.
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Image: Image used for representation purpose only
'We are hoping to move to a safer place with the help of the Red Cross'
Trouble began on June 10 when the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took control of former president Saddam Hussein’s hometown Tikrit and reportedly killed 1,700 Iraqi air force recruits.
“We can hear gunfire but we are not aware of what’s happening outside on the road. We have been told not to step out. We feel safe inside but are hoping to move to a safer place with the help of the Red Cross and the Indian Embassy officials,” Seena, a nurse at Tikrit Teaching hospital said.
There are reports that the ISIS militants have assured the nurses that their salaries and dues would be paid so they can continue to work in the hospital.
Seena said the roads have not been cleared and they have been advised not to venture out or head for the airport unless they get an assurance of safe passage. The nurses have been in touch with the Red Cross, Indian embassy officials as well as Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. They have also sent an SOS to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging for their safe return to India.
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Image: Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul
'We're in touch with the Indian embassy'
“We are comfortable and have food and other essential supplies available at the hospital. We are also taking care of all our patients here,” said another nurse.
The bombings in Tikrit have disrupted internet connections but intermittent phone connectivity is available, which has made it possible for the nurses to keep in touch with the Indian embassy officials and their well-wishers in India.
While they appear confident in their moment of crisis and urge their well-wishers to pray for them, it is a time for critical and urgent diplomatic efforts by the Indian government to bring the Indian nurses back home to safety.