Sri Lanka to send food supply for war-hit people via sea

February 18th, 2009 - 12:01 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 17 (IANS) Sri Lanka Tuesday decided to send urgently 40 tonnes of food supply via sea for thousands of civilians trapped in the island’s northern war-zone, official sources here said.
The sources said that the decision was taken “at an urgent meeting” convened by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the need for urgent food supplies to the civilians trapped in the northeastern Mullaitivu district.

“On the president’s immediate directive, more than 40 tonnes of urgently required food items will be shipped tonight to the civilians trapped in Mullaitivu,” the government information department said in a statement quoting Rishad Bathiudeen, minister of resettlement and disaster relief services.

The minister has said that the other essential items would also be sent as soon as possible.

In a separate meeting, Basil Rajapaksa, senior advisor to the president, “thrashed out strategies to make way for a convoy bringing urgently required food supplies to the civilians affected by fighting between the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and security forces in Mullaitivu district”.

Since the roads to Mullaitivu were still infested with mines it was decided to send the supply via sea, the government statement said.

Among the participants at this meeting were the Sri Lanka representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the commissioner general of essential services.

The ICRC said it has evacuated by ferry patients and their immediate families from the LTTE-held Putumattalan area to the eastern port city of Trincomalee, where they are now receiving medical treatment.

It said that a total of 440 people were taken to Trincomalee in this latest operation, the third in the week.

“Families continue to arrive in Putumattalan in a state of utter exhaustion and despair, hoping to be treated and rescued. But the reality is that there is an almost complete lack of medicines and relief items there,” Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Sri Lanka, said in a statement.

“We did save lives today but many people remain behind, helpless and anxiously waiting to be evacuated,” Castella said.

“The support of civil and military authorities and that of the local community has ensured the success of these evacuations, but for many more people in Wanni and in Putumattalan the situation remains critical,” Morven Murchison-Lochrie, an ICRC doctor who took part in the operations, was quoted as saying in the ICRC statement.

The UN said Monday that the LTTE continues to actively prevent civilians from leaving the war-zone.

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