They are scrambling for safety in their tens of thousands, fleeing the worst inter-ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan for the last 20 years. And, as the mass exodus of ethnic Uzbeks intensifies, the threat of a humanitarian disaster is deepening.
The UN’s refugee agency says emergency aid is being dispatched.
Those who have fled have headed for Uzbekistan, seeking shelter from what many of them say is a “genocide”, led by Kyrgyz gangs and backed by Kyrgyz security forces. The clashes raise the risk of a full-blown conflict between the two countries.
A civil war in Kyrgyzstan is also feared with southern cities Osh and Jalalabad in turmoil. Around 120 people are reported dead.
Kyrgyzstan’s interim government accuses ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev of stoking long-standing ethnic tensions, something he denies.
With more than 1,600 people injured, the escape route now seems out of reach, with Uzbekistan announcing the closure of its border.