At least 762 civilians have been killed in intense fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE in the last 10 days in the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu. The number of injured has crossed the 2000 mark.
The casualty figures were expected to go up with the rapidly advancing SLA soldiers gaining new territory on Thursday and the Sri Lankan air force (SLAF) carrying out more than a dozen raids.
The SLA on Thursday began approaching the remote area of Chalai on the north-eastern coast of Lanka. The battle for Chalai could turn out to be a tough clash against the Sea Tigers, who have a large base in the Chalai lagoon.
As of Thursday, the LTTE had about 200 sq km to 210 sq km under its control. The remaining rebels were surrounded by about 1.2 lakh to 1.3 lakh displaced.
``Between January 26 and February 2, 762 civilians have been killed. We calculated the figure from various sources. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Suresh Premachandran announced the figure in Parliament today,'' MP PK Pathmanathan, also from the pro-LTTE party, TNA, told HT.
There is no way to independently verify the figure as journalists are barred from visiting the battle front.
The last hospital in Puthukudiyyiruppu in Mullaitivu was also shifted with hundreds of patients, among them many critical and several pregnant women, after getting repeatedly shelled. It means that the lakhs of displaced in Mullaitivu now have little or no access to even basic medical care.
Government officials earlier told HT from Vavuniya that hundreds of civilians have been killed in the last two weeks.
More than 3.6 lakh displaced were now living in what the government is calling the ``uncleared area'' comprising safe and unsafe zones, they added.
``There are 2.6 lakh displaced civilians living in the `safe zone.' The area consists of five villages. But about 1.3 lakh are still trapped in the unsafe zone,'' sources said.
The non-safe zone comprises three villages including Matthalan where the Puthukudiyyiruppu hospital was relocated. ``The safe zone is located to the west of Puthukudiyyiruppu and the unsafe zone to the east,'' sources said.
But the entire group of the displaced was facing a severe shortage of food and medicine, sources said, adding that steps need to be taken urgently to address this shortage. ``Other things like shelter are secondary. But without food and medicine, the situation will get worse,'' sources said.
Food and medicine convoys reached the displaced in January-end but the consignments have been insufficient. ``The food situation was okay till December. But January onwards, since the battle became intense in Mullaitivu, the displaced have been facing a very hard situation,'' sources said.