Sri Lanka seeks international help as thousands flee war-zone

By P. Karunakharan,IANS,

Colombo : Sri Lanka Thursday appealed for international assistance to provide immediate humanitarian assistance for over 103,000 civilians who have fled the northern war-zone and entered the government-controlled areas since Monday.

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Hailing the security forces for successfully carrying out “the largest hostage rescue operation by any military in the world”, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that an estimated 15,000-20,000 civilians are still trapped in the no-fire-zone.

“Today (Thursday) I made an appeal to the international community to assist us in helping these IDPs (Internally Displaced People),” Bogollagama told reporters Thursday, adding that the challenge before the government now is to provide shelter and other basic amenities to them.

Stating that the immediate need for the IDPs has been identified, he said Colombo has “already received pledges of support from various countries including the US, India, Australia and institutions including the UN”.

“With the unprecedented influx of large numbers of people in such a short period of time, obviously we do face an emergency humanitarian situation, and our friends in the international community are most welcome to provide emergency relief assistance, initially by way of semi-permanent shelter, water purification plants, sanitation facilities and medical assistance,” Bogollagama said.

According to the military, over 103,000 civilians have fled the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam-held areas since Monday morning despite desperate efforts by the Tigers to prevent them from leaving.

The Tigers are now boxed in a small area, “with the army’s 55 Division approaching them from the north and the 58 Division from the west”, the defence ministry said Thursday.