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Sri Lanka: ICRC carries on evacuation of sick and wounded by sea

12-02-2009 News Release 37/09

Colombo/Geneva (ICRC) – A ferry flying the flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) left Putumattalan today for Trincomalee with over 400 passengers on board, including patients and accompanying family members.

  Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. One of the sick and wounded people being ferried out of the war zone on an ICRC-chartered boat.    

Upon arrival, the patients were taken to Trincomalee Hospital for treatment. Today's evacuation completes a phase in an ICRC operation that began on 10 February, when the organization evacuated an initial group of 240 patients from Putumattalan.

" The ICRC was able to take action because both parties granted safe passage to our ship and gave us their active support, " said Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombo. Civil and military authorities in Putumattalan, Trincomalee and Jaffna as well as local people were also instrumental in ensuring that the wounded and sick were brought to hospital rapidly. Sri Lanka Red Cross Society volunteers participated in the operation by helping to disembark and transfer the patients.

The ICRC is supporting the Ministry of Health in Trincomalee district as it provides care for this exceptional influx of patients. The organization supplied 150 mattresses and medicine and dressing materials to Trincomalee Hospital. " It is such a relief for the patients to receive care after so many days of uncertainty, " said Morven Murchison-Lochrie, an ICRC medical coordinator who participated in the evacuation and later visited the patients, among whom were at least three mothers and their newborn babies.

" The ICRC is present and working in the Vanni with the agreement of both parties and it remains committed, now as in the past, to providing assistance for those affected by the conflict, " said Mr Castella. In Putumattalan, ICRC personnel are providing support for Ministry of Health staff who are treating the dozens of patients that continue to arrive in the area every day.

For further information, please contact:
  Sophie Romanens, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 777 289 682
  Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 773 1588 44
  Simon Schorno, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02