4 Iraqis drown while fleeing Fallujah war zone

Civilians, caught in the crossfire between DAESH and Iraqi forces, risk their lives trying to flee Fallujah.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Internally displaced civilians from Fallujah flee their homes by crossing Euphrates River on a boat on June 2, 2016.

At least four people drowned after their boat sank while trying to cross the Euphrates river to escape fighting in Iraq’s Fallujah, one of the last strongholds of DAESH terrorists.

The drowned bodies of two children, a women and an older man were taken to a hospital in Ameriyat Falluja, a town downstream under government control.

Police say they're looking for nine other people believed to have been on the same boat.

"I've seen with my own eyes my family disappear under the water," said Abu Tabarak, who watched as the boat sank with his wife, son and daughter aboard.

"There was no place for me on the departing boat, so I had waited with my second daughter for the next one. Life has become worse than hell in Falluja; hunger, death and shelling...and after all that suffering, I lost my family before my eyes."

According to a UN estimate, about 50,000 civilians live in Falluja, 50km from Baghdad, with limited access to water, food and healthcare.

Provincial council head Shakir al Essawi said over 1,000 families have managed to cross the river which is about 250 to 300 metres wide at the crossing point in the farmlands.

However, to do this, “empty refrigerators, wooden cupboards and kerosene” are being used as makeshift floats he added.

“It's totally unsafe and this is why innocent people are drowning."

A full scale operation was launched around Fallujah on May 23 to retake the city which was the first to fall to DAESH in Iraq in January 2014.

Since then, around 12,000 people have managed to flee to the outskirts of the city.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said on June 1 the offensive on Falluja had been slowed down in order to protect civilians.

TRTWorld, Reuters