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Sri Lankan Tsunami Survivors Hit By Floods

Tamil women use umbrellas to shield them from a sudden monsoon shower while riding bicycles near Kilinochchi, political capital of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in northern Sri Lanka, 20 November 2005. TheLiberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam commemerate their members who died in the struggle for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka on Hereos' Day which is due to be celebrated on 27 November. AFP photo by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi.

Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka (AFP) Nov 21, 2005
Thousands of tsunami survivors in rebel-held areas of northern Sri Lanka were evacuated to higher ground Monday after lashing monsoon rains flooded their camps, an official said.

"Around 4,000 families have been evacuated from transitional camps in the Mullaittivu and Vadamarachi East districts," said Laurence Christy, planning director of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation, a Tamil relief group.

He added that another 20,000 families, many of them living in mud shelters after being displaced by 30 years of civil war, had been affected by drenching rains which began pounding the north on Sunday.

The area is controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has been fighting for independence for the Hindu Tamil minority in the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese island.

"We collected 300 volunteers this morning and they have evacuated those in the camps to public schools on higher ground," Christy said.

"Because there are not enough schools, we have also had to give out tarpaulins and plastic sheeting to some families," he added. "We have also been giving out food and water. We are concerned about the hygiene situation."

The monsoon rains flood this area annually and some families may have to be accommodated at schools or in makeshift shelters until January when they abate, he said.

Some of those being evacuated, Christy said, were being displaced for the third time -- first by the war, then by the tsunami and now by the floods.

Christy said some of the war displaced had been evacuated to schools in Kilinochchi though others had managed to stay in their houses.

"They were affected to greater and lesser degrees. Some houses collapsed while others were leaking or the floors were flooded."

He said some camps housing tsunami survivors had been built in low-lying jungle areas, which is why they had been flooded.

"We don't like people living in the schools, it is a problem," he said. "We may have to find alternative accommodation for them."

Penny Brune, head of the United Nations Childrens Fund in Kilinochchi, which has been involved in rehabilitating tsunami survivors, said many villages have been cut off by the flooding. According to UNICEF field workers, some people had been injured when their houses collapsed.

"The water is four feet deep in places," Brune told AFP. "We can't get to some of the villages. They are evacuating people by motorboat."

The December 26 tsunami killed some 31,000 people in Sri Lanka and displaced about a million. Many are still living in hundreds of camps.

Peace talks between Colombo and the Tigers have been deadlocked since April 2003 although a truce signed in February 2002 still holds.

Sri Lanka's new president, Mahinda Rajapakse, offered to hold fresh peace talks with the LTTE when he was sworn in on Saturday after narrowly winning the presidential ballot boycotted by Tamils in the rebel-held north and northeast.

Elusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, a self-styled Sun God whose picture is displayed in virtually every building in Kilinochchi, is expected to respond to the offer during his annual Heroes' Day address to cadres at a secret venue on Sunday.

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