Friday 28 November 2014

Witnesses tell of horror as 300 died trapped on mountain without food

Ruth Sherlock

Published 16/08/2014 | 02:30

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, walk in Bajed Kadal refugee camp south west of Dohuk province. Reuters
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, walk in Bajed Kadal refugee camp south west of Dohuk province. Reuters
Kurdish peshmerga troops participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants on the frontline in Khazer. Reuters
Kurdish peshmerga troops keep guard during an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants on the frontline in Khazer . Reuters
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, make bread at Bajed Kadal refugee camp south west of Dohuk province. Reuters
A tank belonging to Kurdish peshmerga troops fire at Islamic State (IS) militant positions from the frontline in Khazer. Reuters
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, walk in Bajed Kadal refugee camp south west of Dohuk province. Reuters
A man from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, sits on the ground at Bajed Kadal refugee camp south west of Dohuk province. Reuters

At least 300 people, most of them children, died whilst trapped on Mount Sinjar, doctors have confirmed.

As the last few hundred refugees finally received aid or reached the relative safety of camps in Syria and Iraq, families have begun to take stock of their terrifying ordeal.

Up to 150,000 people fled when Islamic State militants and their allies stormed the Iraqi city of Sinjar, and then suffered a gruelling journey over mountain peaks, some walking for days, without food or water, in blistering temperatures.

In some of the first documentation on how many died in the harsh conditions, doctors of Nawrouz camp have listed the names of 300 people.

“Families arriving off the mountain gave us the names of their loved ones who died on the road,” said Dr Hussein al-Azzam, the doctor heading the camp.

Refugees described seeing bodies of people, half dead, lying helpless on the roadside having succumbed heat after walking for days through the dry desert terrain.

Others told stories of families forced to leave their elderly relatives behind in order to try to get their children off the mountainside.

One Yazidi man, who did not give his name said: “We couldn’t take the bodies of the dead with us. People buried their relatives on the spot as they died.”

To escape Mount Sinjar, the trapped civilians - who mostly from minority groups including Yazidis and Christians - used a narrow “corridor” that had been carved by the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish military faction.

The fighters pushed the Islamic State back from strip of agricultural land linking the edge of the mountain to the territory under their control on the Syrian border.

Bolstering the corridor with their defences, it became the only conduit through which people trapped on the mountain to escape from.

Up to 70,000 people passed through Nawrouz camp in Syria, the first place for them to rest and receive aid after the hundreds of miles travelled to get off the mountain.

Under mismatched tents or tarpaulin sheets they tried to catch some rest and rehydrate.

It is understood that most then travelled on to return to Iraq via a crossing that brought them to a safer part of the country, north of Mount Sinjar. They make up an estimated 1.2 million people who have been internally displaced since the Islamic State took control of Mosul in June.

The humanitarian crises in this area is now so critical that some have now returned to Nawrouz camp. Mr Azzam said: “We have no resources here, but these people have nowhere to go.” (Daily Telegraph London)

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