Iraqi civil defense teams have evacuated scores of civilians trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings in west Mosul’s neighbourhoods, the Ninawa Civil Defense Directorate said Wednesday (July 26th).
"Civil defense teams are making exceptional efforts to rescue trapped residents," said Lt. Col. Rabih Ibrahim Hassan who is heading the rescue effort.
Since the liberation of west Mosul on July 10th, 157 civilians have been pulled from under the rubble and have received treatment before being transferred to shelters, he told Diyaruna.
This week alone, Hassan said he oversaw the rescue of 33 civilians, including a number of women and children.
"Last Friday, we rescued a family of eight who were trapped in their home basement in the Old City’s al-Shaareen area for 25 days," he said.
"Although our initial information confirmed their deaths, we conducted a search operation and after opening gaps between crumbled blocks of cement we were amazed to find them alive," he added.
"This rescue operation motivated us to double our efforts despite all the challenges," he said.
Hassan said that one of the biggest challenges is that bulldozers and heavy vehicles are unsuitable for use in the Old City’s narrow alleys.
"We are forced to use smaller equipment which is not enough for an effort of this scale and wastes time," he said.
Mosul’s Old City is littered with unexploded ordnance left behind by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), which hinders the rescue operations and endangers the lives of civil defense workers, he said.
On July 17th, the director of the rescue teams in Mosul, Lt. Col. Qusay Saad, was killed by an unexploded ordnance while directing a bulldozer to lift debris from a collapsed building in al-Mushahada district in the Old City. Four other civil defense workers were injured.
So far, the bodies of 1,429 civilians who were killed in the Mosul battle have been retrieved from under the rubble, according to a July 20th statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command.