Heavy rains have destroyed or damaged hundreds of shelters housing ethnic Tamils displaced during Sri Lanka's civil war, the United Nations said Monday.
The weekend flooding has added to concern over the welfare of
nearly 300,000 displaced people who have been living in tents and
makeshift shelters since the May defeat by government forces of the
Tamil Tigers, ending their 25-year armed campaign for an ethnic
homeland. Rights groups claim the Tamils are detained in camps
against their will.
Parts of the Manik Farm camp in the island's northeast were
inundated, and some 1,925 shelters may have been damaged or
destroyed, said a statement from the U.N. office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, without specifying how many
people in total used the shelters.
It also warned that nearly 100 toilets have been flooded and
that the water there was "stagnant and contaminated."
The government says the affected people have been moved to
higher grounds within the camp, which is run by the government.
Nearly 1,000 families have been relocated, said Keerthi
Ekanayake, senior official from the government's agency for
disaster management. He said the floods were receding and the
situation was under control. The families were being provided with
cooked foods, water and other facilities, he said.
Rights groups have urged the government to free the civilians -
whose camps are guarded by soldiers and strung with barbed wire -
claiming the detentions are illegal. Access to the camps is heavily
restricted, although the U.N. is allowed entry and helps supply
The heavy rains came two months ahead of the monsoon season in
the north of Sri Lanka. Aid groups and diplomats have expressed
concerns about overcrowding and outbreaks of disease because of
The government says it can't release the civilians until it
finishes screening them for potential rebel fighters. Authorities
have so far resettled about 3,000 people, and officials say they
hope to resettle most of the others soon.