ICRC warns of humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka

The International Committee Red Cross (ICRC) says a major humanitarian crisis is unfolding in northern Sri Lanka as government forces continue their military operations against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The ICRC says that hundreds of civilians have been killed by the fighting and about 250,000 people are trapped.

It says medical facilities in the Bani district of northern Sri Lanka are overwhelmed by hundreds of dead and scores of wounded from the fighting, which has intensified since the government took the last major Tamil Tiger held town of Mullativu on Sunday.

The head of the South Asia operations, Jacques de Maio, says people were being caught in the crossfire, hospitals and ambulances have been hit by shelling and several aid workers have been injured while evacuating the wounded.

He says his staff are struggling to work in the region.

“They are forced to face the overwhelming influx of wounded, of sick who reach in hospitals which are themselves hit by shelling [and] which are suffering shortages of medical consumables,” he said.

“They are under-equipped, they are under-staffed and it is very hard to bring in the necessary assistance.”

Government troops backed by tanks and air support have been fighting to capture the last strip of rebel Tamil Tiger territory.

Mr de Maio says requests to bring out 200 seriously injured civilians had been denied and they were now close to death.

source : http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/01/28/2475976.htm

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