Crowds swarm as the helicopter laden with food and water touches down on the mountain, known as Mount Shingal in Kurdish. The footage appears to show one young man scrambling to climb aboard as it takes off again. Twenty people managed to squeeze into the helicopter to be lifted to safety, the video states.
Those lucky few appear emotional and physically drained, after nearly a week exposed to the elements on the desolate mountain, battling dehydration and hunger. As members of a minority sect,they would have risked slaughter at the hands of the surrounding militants had they come down from their refuge.
At least 60 people in total have been airlifted off the mountain, according to the Kurdish commander overseeing evacuation efforts — raising questions as to why a larger-scale air operation has not been launched to shuttle more to safety.
For most, the only option is to walk to Syria, made possible after Kurdish forces secured a route. But for some, even that is not a feasible option, with many stranded on the more isolated southern side of the mountain, where airdrops are less frequent. There they face a long and arduous climb to the evacuation route.