Heavy rains flood camps for displaced Sri Lankans

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Heavy rains have caused havoc in camps housing nearly 300,000 people displaced by war in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north, an official said Sunday.

The flooding has raised fears for the welfare of the ethnic Tamils living in tents and makeshift shelters.
Downpours in the last two days have forced authorities to move hundreds in the Manik Farm camp to safer areas.

“Around 200 persons there have been shifted to locations on higher grounds within the camp premises,” said P.S.M. Charles, the senior government official in Vavuniya, where the camp is located.

Rights groups have urged the government to free the civilians, whose camps are guarded by soldiers and strung with barbed wire, saying the detentions are illegal.
The camp is near former battlefields where ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels fought for an independent homeland. Government troops defeated the rebels in May, ending a 25-year civil war that killed more than 80,000.
Charles said the floods are receding and the situation is now under control.
It was not possible to verify the situation because access to the camps is severely restricted.
Heavy rains began two months ahead of the monsoon season in the north, and aid workers fear the hastily built tents will not survive. Aid groups and diplomats have expressed concerns about overcrowding and outbreaks of disease because of poor sanitation facilities.
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.

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