Hundreds who fled intense fighting in Sri Lanka’s war zone were awaiting evacuation from this tiny coastal village on Friday as the UN reported that nearly 6,500 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the last three months.
The UN estimates that 50,000 people are still trapped in the war zone after more than 1,00,000 fled earlier this week, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said. The Sri Lankan government had said it estimated that only 10-15,000 people remained in the war zone.
The government said a total of 2,934 civilians escaped from the clutches of the LTTE on Friday and reached the government-controlled areas. “This bought the total of civilians arriving from the uncleared areas during the past four days to a massive 1,06,007,” the Media Centre for National Security said.
At least 6,432 civilians have been killed in the intense fighting over the past three months and 13,946 wounded, according to a private UN document circulated among diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka in recent days.
The UN has declined to publicly release its casualty figures and had no immediate comment on the document.
Civilian deaths have increased dramatically, according to the UN. An average of 33 civilians were killed each day at the end of January, and this figure jumped to 116 by April, the document said. More than 5,500 of those killed were inside a government-declared ‘no-fire’ zone. Shortage of food & medicine in war zone
Puttumattalan: Concern for the safety of civilians trapped in the ever-shrinking war zone has increased in recent weeks as the government pushed ahead with its offensive to crush the rebels. The UN on Friday reported that nearly 6,500 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the last three months.
UN spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said the UN estimates that 50,000 people are still trapped in the war zone after more than 1,00,000 fled earlier this week.The Sri Lankan government had said it estimated that only 10-15,000 people remained in the war zone. Dr Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi, a top government health official in the war zone, said there was a severe shortage of food and medicine in the area and that people were dying of starvation. The ongoing violence was so intense that many people were abandoning their dying relatives to flee the fighting, he said. Speaking to journalists on a rare visit to the edge of the war zone, civilians told of Tamil Tiger rebels using them as human shields. Conditions “were terrible as we did not have anything to eat. We thought it’s better to flee,” said Rajeshwari, 40, who gave only her first name.
She and other civilians moved with the retreating rebels for months as the advancing army chipped away at the insurgents’ territory, trying to end the nation’s quarter-century of civil strife. The rebels promised the civilians protection, Rajeshwari said. “But they did not keep the promise.”