For the first time after the break-up of the peace process in early 2006, people belonging to the majority Sinhala community in Sri Lanka are fleeing the troubled Eastern district of Trincomalee, triggering speculation about serious consequences.
While the Sinhalas are fleeing to the safety of the Sinhala-majority areas, the minority Tamils are fleeing to the LTTE-controlled Tamil-majority areas.
A Sri Lankan government source said in Colombo on Saturday, that over a thousand people, mostly belonging to the Sinhala community, had fled Serunuwara, Kallar and Somapura due to continuous artillery and mortar shelling by the rebel LTTE.
According to the government's National Security website, 650 persons had sought shelter in the Suriyapura school, and 279 persons belonging to 98 families, had sought shelter in Kantalai and Agrabodhi Vihara, a Buddhist temple.
Most Sinhalas are Buddhists and most Tamils are Hindus.
Six persons, including children between 12 and 14, were injured in the shelling by the LTTE, the website said. The injured were rushed to the Kandy government hospital in Central Sri Lanka.
The government described the attack on the villagers as "senseless and inhuman".
Tamils and Muslims flee too
The minority Tamils and Muslims continued to flee, as the Sri Lankan Air Force shelled Echilampattu, the pro-rebel Tamilnet website reported.
The SLAF bombed Palchenai and Verugal areas bordering Batticaloa district, as part of an effort to capture Verugal on the Eastern coast.
The Sri Lankan Army also shelled these areas from the Kallar and Punanai camps.
Tamilnet accused the SLAF of bombing the area in order to prevent Tamils from reaching the LTTE-controlled Vaharai region. It said that, in contrast, the Army had asked the Kantalai police to provide vehicles to transport Sinhala refugees to the safety of the Sinhala-majority Kantalai region.