UK & World News
Iraqi Civilians Flee Advance By Islamists
Aid agencies are preparing to cope with nearly one million Iraqis believed to have fled their homes as Islamist insurgents have seized control of parts of the country.
The mass movement of people began after fighters from an al Qaeda breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), seized the northern city of Mosul in a surprise assault on Monday.
Since then, more civilians have fled as the militants have advanced southward toward the capital.
Unicef's Jeffrey Bates, who is near Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, said the agency estimated nearly 500,000 people had crossed into the region over the past three days.
"The situation is still very fluid in that we are not able to really calculate exact numbers or even exact locations at this point.
"So a lot of energy is going into mapping out where populations have gone, how they've settled into the local communities or indeed if they're just squatting in hospitals, or schools or fields.
"... Couple that with the 300,000 that were displaced from Anbar and you're getting up to close to a million right now."
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Bates said the Kurdish government had been quite accommodating and open to allowing the influx of the predominantly Arab displaced.
"There was a fear that the checkpoints would get clogged and people would be stranded on roads for days," he said.
"This has actually proven to not have been the case in that the Kurdish government was very able to very quickly process people and give them passes to come into Kurdistan."
Local aid workers said most people are arriving with little more than the clothes on their backs and have little money.
Save The Children said it was "working around the clock" with refugees and displaced people. It said the situation in the region was already tough after thousands of people had been displaced by the conflict in neighbouring Syria, where ISIS is also fighting.