MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Water supplies to about 650,000 residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul have been cut off after a pipeline was hit during fighting between the army and Islamic State militants, a local official said on Tuesday.
“The maintenance team cannot reach the pipeline because it lies in an area being fought over,” Hussam al-Abar, a member of Mosul’s Nineveh provincial council, told Reuters in one of the 15 districts and suburbs of the city where running water ceased.
The news is a blow to authorities hoping that residents will stay in Mosul while U.S.-backed troops try to crush Islamic State in northern Iraq’s largest city, which the militants seized in 2014.
“There is a big shortage of drinking water,” Abar said. “We are facing a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Authorities were sending some 70 tank water trucks a day to areas controlled by the army but this would not be enough to supply residents, he said, adding that Islamic State had attacked some of the trucks.
“Basic services such as water, electricity, health, food are non-existent (in Mosul),” he said, standing in an eastern suburb while mortars fired inside the city.
Six weeks after Iraq launched its military offensive to retake Mosul, the army’s elite counter terrorism units have retaken about a quarter of the city as they advance from the east towards the Tigris river that runs through the center.
Some 1.5 million people were still inside Mosul, Abar said. “We need the help of international organizations for the hospitals. We have people wounded from suicide bombings and rocket attacks from Daesh who need treatment.”
Abar tried to calm angry people, many of whom had been displaced from inside Mosul, who approached him as he arrived at a field hospital.
“We don’t have water, food, electricity,” said Nadim Shibab, one of the displaced people. “Nothing, nothing, no life.”
Humanitarian workers said on Tuesday a full siege was developing in Mosul as poor families struggle to feed themselves after prices rose sharply in tandem with the U.S.-backed offensive to recapture the city.
Editing by Dominic Evans/Mark Heinrich