The flight of more than 100,000 people from Sri Lanka’s war zone is beginning to overload the system, the UN said yesterday, after the Security Council warned those still trapped remain in grave danger.
The military said that a four-day exodus was beginning to slow down with more than 103,000 people having come to army-held areas since troops cleared an earthen barrier it said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had built to stop them.
Despite the massive outpouring, the UN Security Council late on Wednesday said it had “deep concern” for the welfare of those remaining inside the LTTE-held area, a narrow coastal strip surrounded by troops aiming to win Asia’s longest-running war.
The military says troops now control all but 13km2 of the Indian Ocean island, where the LTTE and founder-leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran are fighting a last stand in their war to create a separate state for the Tamil minority.
Prabhakaran will not be eligible for amnesty or a pardon, having “spurned” an offer to surrender, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said.
UN spokesman Gordon Weiss said the world body had confirmed that between 90,000 and 100,000 people have left the combat zone since Monday. They will join 80,000 people already in refugee camps away from the front.
“There is serious overcrowding in the camps and it is only to get worse in coming days,” Weiss said in Colombo. “It is a huge exodus and it threatens to overwhelm the available systems.”
The UN had urged the government of Sri Lanka to identify new sites and clear them as soon as possible to accommodate the outpouring, he said.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said combat operations remained underway, but denied LTTE accusations that troops were shelling the area.
Independent confirmation of battlefield accounts is difficult because outsiders are generally restricted from the area.
For a fourth straight day, the military progress drove the Colombo Stock Exchange higher, traders said, up 1.5 percent in midday trade.