'Sri Lanka shelling kills four more civilians' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Sri Lanka shelling kills four more civilians'

Four civilians died when artillery shells fell on a home for the elderly inside a demarcated safe area within Sri Lanka's war zone.

world Updated: Feb 14, 2009 12:28 IST

Four civilians died when artillery shells fell on a home for the elderly inside a demarcated safe area within Sri Lanka's war zone, a doctor said on Saturday.

Many elderly people were also injured in the shelling on Friday in the northeast Puttumattalan area, said T Satyamurthy, a doctor working out of the makeshift community centre hospital.

He estimated more than 100 wounded civilians were coming to the hospital daily and most had shrapnel wounds. He did not know who had fired the shells.

The makeshift hospital is in a newly demarcated safe area for civilians to shelter as troops battle Tamil Tiger rebels cornered in a narrow strip of jungle in the island's northeast.

"On Friday, nearly 100 civilians were admitted for injuries, on Thursday 87 admitted. They have injuries from shells, burn marks, but we don't have basic medicine to treat them," he said by telephone.

At least four patients also died on Thursday and Friday due to a lack of proper medicines, he said.

The makeshift hospital was understaffed, had no access to clean toilets, drinking water and cooked food, said Satyamurthy, who is also the regional director of health for the northern Kilinochchi district.

He said people had stopped bringing dead bodies to the hospital and instead buried them wherever they were killed.

Patients and medical staff were evacuated by the Red Cross last week from the areas of Puthukkudirirppu and Udaiyaarkaddu after the field hospitals came under heavy shelling for days.

However, Puttumattalan hospital came under fire on Monday, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) said, adding that at least 16 people were killed there.

This week, the ICRC evacuated more than 600 patients and family members by sea to the northeastern coastal town of Trincomalee.

But Satyamurthy said another 600 badly wounded people needed to be evacuated for further treatment. More than 200 patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems were also in need of urgent evacuation.

More than 37,000 people have fled to the government controlled areas since fighting escalated last week, and the military estimates under 100,000 civilians are still trapped inside the war zone.

The United Nations earlier estimated that 250,000 people were trapped behind the front lines.

The government bars reporters and aid workers from travelling to the front lines, which makes it impossible to verify casualty claims.

Sri Lankan military says it is on the verge of victory, after having corned the Tamil Tigers in a narrow strip deep inside.