UNITED NATIONS, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Humanitarian agencies are bracing for the possibility that an additional 300,000 to 320,000 civilians may flee in coming weeks, deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters here Monday.
The Iraqi government reported that 180,000 civilians had fled western Mosul since mid-February, when military operations to retake the western districts of the Iraqi city began, Haq said at a daily news briefing here.
"Humanitarian agencies are deeply worried that civilians are at grave risk in western Mosul," he said.
Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said that the use of explosives in the densely populated Old City is likely to cause extensive damage. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped, she warned, and they are in terrible danger.
The main supply route into western Mosul has been cut since mid-November, Haq said. "Families fleeing the city are reporting that shelves are empty and that the only food available is what they already have at home. Water and electricity supplies have been cut and medicines are running out."
Under the leadership of the Iraqi government, a massive national effort is underway to address the crisis. Civilians fleeing the western districts in the city are being accommodated in 17 camps and emergency sites near the city. The government and partners are rushing to construct and expand 10 of these.
Since Oct. 17, more than 330,000 people have been displaced by the Mosul crisis, more than 70,000 of whom have returned to their homes.
Humanitarian agencies have been working around the clock to provide life-saving support to more than 1.3 million people from eastern and western Mosul including families who have stayed in their homes, and those who have fled.
Mosul witnessed a fighting between the Iraqi government forces and Islamic State (IS/Da'esh) terrorists
The Iraqi government force's advance toward Mosul came after the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Feb. 19 the start of an offensive to drive the extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River which bisects the city.
Late in January, Abadi declared the liberation of the eastern side of Mosul, or the left bank of Tigris, after more than 100 days of fighting against the Islamic State (IS) militants.
However, the western side of Mosul, with its narrow streets and a heavy population of between 750,000 and 800,000, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces, according to the United Nations estimates.
Mosul, 400 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.