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Sri Lanka: ICRC evacuates casualties from Vakarai

11-12-2006 News Release 06/076

The ICRC today evacuated 30 injured civilians from Vakarai, in the Batticaloa district of eastern Sri Lanka. The casualties included seven children and 16 people looking after them, who were among over 30,000 displaced people trapped by heavy fighting between the Sri Lankan security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Seven boats sailing under the ICRC flag reached Vakarai hospital this morning, collected the severe cases and transferred them to Valaichchenai hospital, a better-equipped facility in the government-controlled area. The evacuation involved medical personnel from the Italian Red Cross.

" Many difficulties had to be overcome to organize this evacuation, " said Martin De Boer, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Batticaloa, who led the operation, " but thanks to the security guarantees provided by both parties to the conflict, we finally succeeded in reaching Vakarai hospital and in evacuating the most serious cases. However, other injured civilians are still waiting to be evacuated " .

Also today, the ICRC airlifted in over a tonne of medicines to treat an outbreak of the Chikungunya virus on the Jaffna peninsula, including 500,000 Paracetamol tablets and other pain-killing and anti-inflammatory drugs. The airlift was launched in response to an urgent request from the Health Service Division in Jaffna.

The ICRC reminds both parties to the conflict of their obligation to comply with international humanitarian law, urgently calls upon them to ensure the protection of the civilian population and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and urges them to respect the freedom of movement of internally displaced persons.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Davide Vignati, ICRC Colombo, tel. +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 77 728 96 82  

 Carla Haddad, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26