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Sri Lanka: ICRC evacuates 495 from conflict zone and delivers 25 tonnes of food

07-05-2009 News Release 09/93

Geneva (ICRC) – In north-eastern Sri Lanka, 495 sick and injured patients and accompanying caregivers were evacuated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today. An ICRC-chartered ferry, the Green Ocean I, also delivered 25 metric tonnes of food provided by the World Food Programme, together with some medicines, for distribution among the thousands of civilians still trapped in a small area along the coast within the conflict zone.

" Heavy fighting is taking place near the medical assembly point at Mullavaikkal, which puts the lives of patients, medical workers and ICRC staff at great risk, " said Jacques de Maio, the ICRC head of operations for South Asia, in Geneva. " This hampers medical evacuations of wounded civilians and their families. "

For seven days prior to this operation, security constraints had prevented the ICRC from rescuing dozens of patients in need of urgent medical treatment.

" Not all the wounded could be evacuated today, and it is of the utmost importance that more evacuations take place over the coming days, " said Mr de Maio. " The food and medical supplies that have been delivered remain insufficient to cover the basic needs of the people there. "

Since 10 February, the ICRC has evacuated more than 13,000 people from the conflict area by boat to Trincomalee and Pulmoddai, which are in government-controlled areas. Since mid-February, the ICRC has also arranged for the delivery of over 2,300 metric tonnes of food to the area.

 For more information, please contact:  

 Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24  

 Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 773 1588 44