Feature Article

LTTE stepping up relief ops in Batticaloa-Amparai - Col. Bhanu

[TamilNet, Sunday, 02 January 2005, 07:36 GMT]
“Our leader has instructed me to involve all our fighters, medical corps, vehicles, engineering units and other resources in relief and rescue operations in the Batticaloa- Amparai district. He has sent a large number of troops from the north with supplies for this work. The Malathy Infantry Regiment has also arrived along with head of our women’s wing, Ms. Thamilini, and deputy head of political division for Jaffna, Mr. Semmanan, to help Tsunami affected people in this region and alleviate their suffering”, said Col. Bhanu, a senior military officer of the Liberation Tigers who is the overall commander for Batticaloa-Amparai District, in an exclusive interview to TamilNet.

Extracts from the Interview given to TamilNet by Col. Bhanu, Special Commander of the LTTE in Batticaloa-Amparai.
Listen to Extracts >>
“We are not looking at this disaster in terms of Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese. Our concern is only with people hit by the Tsunami. We took our heavy vehicles to Kattankudy the day after the sea surge to repair and clear roads. We helped the Muslim people recover bodies of their dead in Kalmunai too”.

Col. BhanuHe said that ten Sri Lanka army soldiers who were dragged by the surging sea far into the lagoon were rescued by the LTTE and some civilians. They were treated for their wounds and handed over to the SLA in Batticaloa town, according to him.

Col. Bhanu said several children had survived the disaster by clinging to logs and branches in waters that rushed into the lagoon as far as Kokkaddicholai. “Some children survived by holding on to ceiling fans, rafters and beams in their houses. But sadly two little children were killed in Thirukovil when there was a stampede caused by a false Tsunami warning three days ago. Four elderly persons were left with fractures ”, he said.

LTTE officials in Amparai
Speaking to TamilNet about the state of relief and rescue work in Batticaloa-Amparai, the LTTE commander said: “I see on TV aid arriving by planes from foreign countries. But nothing of this has come to Batticaloa or Amparai so far. We are depending on donations from our own people to provide relief to the refugees”.

“We need more than sheer man power to clear fallen buildings and other heavy debris under which many bodies are trapped. The stench from such bodies is terrible. We urgently need heavy machinery and vehicles for this task – particularly before diseases break out.

“Several Non Governmental Organisations (NGO), community groups and some traders are also providing relief to refugees in Batticaloa and in some other areas. In some places they are giving cooked food too”.

“But no one is taking responsibility for moving the refugees to safer grounds where their health and sanitation can be ensured; where they can be protected from deceases. The places where they have found temporary refuge now are fast becoming serious threats to their health.

“We have to shift refugees to areas with clean water and healthy surroundings four or five kilometres inland soon – before there is an outbreak of epidemics. Many refugees are sheltered in places not far from the shore which were hit by the Tsunami where one finds salt water, debris, polluted water and decomposing bodies and carcasses of dead animals. Things have got worse with the heavy rains lashing on the fragile refugee camps for the last two days”.

“Therefore we have divided our work into two main tasks – One set of teams would look after the immediate needs of the Tsunami refugees and manage their temporary shelters. The second set of our teams would work on organising safer settlements for them, away from the vulnerable areas where they are sheltered now. This has to be very carefully planned and implemented, mainly with a view to protecting them from diseases”.

“We need clean water. This cannot be obtained now from areas closer to the sea. We need toilets. We have to prevent disease”.

“This is also a major task for the Tamils’ Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO)”

“I must say that the Special Task Force (STF) has been helpful to civilians in the Amparai district. They rescued several people hit by the Tsunami and helped retrieve bodies. Their work has been commendable in that region.

“We are able to solve problems in dealing with the crisis at a local level. The LTTE and the STF are able to discuss and coordinate several issues in order to facilitate assistance to the people. We try to resolve problems at the local level in the interests of the people.

“Relief supplies to the east are delayed at checkpoints by Sri Lankan armed forces personnel who harass the transporters. We take this up with the higher authorities. The Batticaloa Government Agent too has sought to resolve the problem by appointing his officials at main checkpoints to expedite the arrival of supply vehicles”.

A beach in the eastern coast prior to sundays devastation (library photo taken june 2004)


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