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Arraf: An estimated 400,000 Kurds displaced

Correspondent Jane Arraf
Correspondent Jane Arraf

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CNN Correspondent Jane Arraf is in the mountains of northern Iraq where as many as 400,000 Kurds are believed to have left their homes to take refuge in the countryside. This is her report:

DOHA, Iraq (CNN) -- There's freezing rain gathering on the mountains near us, but that hasn't deterred people from heading farther into the countryside.

Now the roads from here, and this is a major city in northern Iraq, are lined with tents, and these are makeshift tents with sometimes 10 children huddled underneath.

You can imagine the level of fear that people have to have to be driven from their homes. They are living in miserable conditions. They are warming their hands by the fire. They are gathering water from streams.

One man told us that he had left his job and his house in this city, a comfortable job and house, to take his five children to live in a tent that he had saved from the last refugee crisis in 1991, thinking they might need it again.

Now there are 200,000 people who have left the city alone, altogether an estimated 400,000 at least have left other cities to head to the mountains and the countryside, and hundreds of them are living with almost no protection.

There is food in the country, and particularly in northern Iraq, there is a lot of stockpiled food. But one of the big problems is fuel, keeping warm; two people have already died of exposure, according to authorities, elderly people, and they've only got enough fuel in this region for a week, they say.

That includes heating oil as well as gasoline.

Now, what they are trying to do now is they started today to built tent cities. Now these are not classic refugees. The classic refugees would be coming from the west of Iraq, crossing the unofficial boarder from Iraqi controlled territory and northern Iraq, but that border has been closed.

The Iraqi government is not allowing anyone in or out.

There people are internally displaced, Kurds heading farther into the countryside, and local authorities are trying to take care of them.

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