IRBIL, IRAQ —
Exhausted, hungry and desperate, 30,000 people have poured out of Fallujah in the past three days as Iraqi forces stormed into the center of the city, pushing Islamic State fighters into the northwest of the city.
Despite the searing Iraqi summer heat, many of those who have escaped are sleeping out in the open as refugee camps are now full. Others have managed to find refuge in warehouses or mosques.
The number of people who have managed to leave the city has topped 60,000.
Appeal to government
The Norwegian Refugee Council, which is providing emergency food rations and bottled water to thousands of people, said the sheer numbers and a lack of camp coordination has made it difficult to reach all the newly arrived families.
Norwegian Refugee Council staff provide drinking water for Iraqis from Fallujah at Amariyat al-Fallujah displacement camp. Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC
“We implore the Iraqi government to take charge of this humanitarian disaster unfolding on our watch,” said NRC Country Director Nasr Muflahi in a statement.
“We cannot continue to provide aid when we do not even know who is where and what they need,” Muflahi said.
Prime Minister Haider al Abadi declared the Iraqi forces had been victorious in their fight to take control of the city.
Iraqi army soldiers hold Iraqi flag on a top of a military vehicle in the centre of Fallujah, Iraq, June 18, 2016.
But in Fallujah, Iraqi fighters face snipers and bombs as they fight to eliminate IS militants from the city they have held for more than two years.
Some militants reportedly have sent their wives and children out of the city with the refugees.