Up to 30,000 'disabled' by Sri Lankan shells
Sri Lanka's shelling made up to 30,000 tamil people disabled. A french charity in Batticaloa producing artificial limbs has got "huge demand". But Mahinda Rajapakse is still claiming his army rescued the people without any civilian casualties.
The scale of civilian casualties who have been maimed in the war was disclosed by the award-winning French charity Handicap International, which works with the victims of war throughout the world.
The charity, which has a small factory producing artificial limbs in Batticaloa in Sri Lanka's eastern province, has opened an emergency unit at one of the centres for people who fled the fighting, and is working with other suppliers to meet what it described a "huge demand".
Aid workers said nearly all of the people had been the victims of relentless Sri Lankan shelling of the civilian safe zone, where the last of the Tamil Tiger leadership made its last stand before it was wiped out last week.
The disclosure of thousands of severely maimed and disabled civilian victims contradicts the claims of Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has said his army rescued 280,000 "hostages" without any civilian casualties.
The injured are being held in hospitals throughout the country and camps in the north which are off-limits to journalists and open only to a small number of specialist aid workers.
Handicap International's Sri Lanka director Satish Misra said the number of maimed could be "about 25,000 to 30,000 people".
The conditions of camps where the tamils are dumped seems horrible as seen by the worker.
"We know of one person who lost his leg and his wife lost both her legs. They have an eight month old baby. They left the baby in the bunker to get food and were shelled when they came out. They are in Vavuniya camp," he said.
The conditions there and at other restricted camps in the north were the worst he had seen in a 20 year career of helping refugees in war zones around the world, he said.
Old people had died because they had lost their families and could not fend for themselves in the camps, while many children were alone without relatives to care for them. Many children were emaciated, he said, and skin diseases were widespread.
"There are 6,000 people in Polmoddai Camp. They're destitute, arrive in just the clothes they're wearing and put in tents which are excruciatingly hot. The camp is in the jungle, and there have been five people bitten by snakes. The camps at Vavuniya have open sewers, and have become a marshy mass of excrement.
"There are seriously injured people sent to camp in these unhygienic crowded conditions," he said.