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More on the floods…

August 20, 2009

AFP – Rains flood 2,000 shelters at Sri Lanka camp: UN

Heavy rains flooded nearly 2,000 makeshift shelters housing Sri Lankan Tamil war refugees detained by the government, the United Nations said Tuesday, raising concerns about their health.

The strong rains last weekend lashed the northern Vavuniya district where over 250,000 people displaced during the final stages of the ethnic conflict live in military-run camps under tight security.

The UN said 1,925 shelters had been “damaged or completely destroyed” in the biggest of a series of displaced persons camps known as the Manik Farm area.

People affected had been moved to schools inside the camps temporarily, the UN statement said.

The rains washed away wooden toilets and damaged sewer lines and water treatment plants, government officials said.

Sri Lanka’s Resettlement Minister Rishard Bathurdeen has blamed UN agencies for what he calls a poorly constructed drainage system that collapsed during the floods.

But Human Rights Watch said Tuesday the government must take “full responsibility” for the squalid conditions.

The New York-based group urged Colombo to release inmates to live with their families and friends, a demand consistently rejected by authorities.

“Locking families up in squalid conditions and then blaming aid agencies for their plight is downright shameful,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“This is illegal, dangerous, and inhumane,” he said, adding the floods had “heightened the risk of outbreak of disease”.

The government has severely restricted access to the camps and does not allow journalists to visit the area on their own.

In late June, camp residents held at least two protests which were defused by the security forces. Since then, the military has divided the management of the camps into smaller, more manageable sections, HRW said.

The government has promised to resettle around 80 percent of the displaced people by year end. Colombo says people will have to remain inside the camps until the military screens out remaining Tamil Tiger fighters.

Sri Lanka’s former premier and main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday said the camps threatened to sully Sri Lanka’s international image.

Government forces crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebel group in May, ending the guerrillas’ four-decade struggle for an independent Tamil homeland that was one of Asia’s longest-running ethnic conflicts.

Reuters – Monsoon onset raising fears for Sri Lanka war-displaced

HRW – Sri Lanka: Floods Threaten Camp Detainees

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