Red Cross evacuates 240 wounded civilians from LTTE-held areas

February 10th, 2009 - 9:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 10 (IANS) Amid heavy clashes in Sri Lanka’s northeastern Mullaitivu district, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Tuesday evacuated 240 sick and wounded civilians from rebel-held areas using a ferry, an official here said.

ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne said that the 240 people in the war-zone boarded an ICRC-chartered ferry off Puthumathalan, a narrow coastal strip still under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Mullaitivu district.

“The local fishermen’s union has given help by providing their fishing boats to transfer these 240 sick and wounded people from the shore to the ICRC ferry. It was a difficult process,” Wijeratne told IANS.

The spokesperson said the ferry was now on its way to the eastern port city of Trincomalee with the patients.

The ICRC said the sea evacuation of the sick and the wounded was done with the agreement of the parties to the conflict - the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

“There were 400 sick and wounded people and today we were able to evacuate only 240. We are planning a similar evacuation operation tomorrow,” she said.

Military sources said that 30,329 civilians trapped in the LTTE-held areas have entered the government-held areas of Mullaitivu since January to date, despite desperate efforts by the LTTE to prevent them from going across.

The military said at least 19 civilians were killed while 75 were wounded Tuesday when the LTTE opened fire at hundreds of displaced civilians fleeing the war-zone.

On Monday, at least 20 soldiers and eight civilians were killed in a suspected LTTE female suicider’s bomb attack.

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