Refugees arrive in hope of food

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 March 1999, 01:26 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) took journalists on a conducted tour of its newly captured areas in Madhu yesterday. Rev.Devasagayam of the Madhu church told journalists that civilians were moving into the SLA controlled area, drawn by reports of food handouts.

Rev.Devasagayam told the journalists last evening that civilians are fearful of the Army. He added that it might be due to their past experiences.

He said that civilians are moving to the Army controlled areas due to the shortage of food in the other parts of the Vanni.

When the refugees arrive from the jungles the Army places them in camps in either Madhu or Vavuniya, said Reverend Devasagayam.

There are an estimated 18000-20000 refugees currently living in the camps looked after by the church.

Tamil refugee father holds his son near the Madhu church in north-western Sri Lanka as a military armoured personnel carrier pulls up in the background a day after government forces captured the
In addition several thousand others from Vidaththaltheevu, Panrivirichchan and Adampan areas have arrived during the past few days due to shelling by the SLA, Rev.Devasagayam said.

According to sources at the Mannar Kachcheri, civilians in these areas had initially fled into the jungles of Kalliady to escape the shelling.

There is also shortage of medicine Rev.Devasagayam said. 22 cases of cholera have already been reported, he added.

The recent arrivals are in a worse situation that those resident in the church's camp, he said.

He also said that hundreds of civilians who had been working in their farms when the SLA had moved into the area had not returned yet.

Inmates of the camp said that they expect the Army to conduct large scale screening for Tiger activists either today or on Thursday. Some people expressed fears that innocent civilians might be arrested.


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