Red Cross evacuates 400 from Sri Lanka war zone

February 16, 2009 (AFP) – The Red Cross evacuated Monday a ferry load of 400 civilians wounded in fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The injured and their accompanying relatives were shipped out of the conflict zone in the northeast of the island and taken for “further medical treatment,” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokeswoman Sarasi Wijeratne said.

The ICRC carried out similar sea evacuations twice last week, bringing 745 wounded from Puttumattalan to the government-controlled northeastern seaport town of Trincomalee.

The ICRC has warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding in the region, where the government says thousands of civilians are being held as human shields by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The United Nations, the United States and Britain have asked the Tigers to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone while also urging the Colombo government to declare a temporary truce. Both calls have been rejected.

The Sri Lankan military says it is on the verge of victory, having boxed the remnants of the LTTE into a narrow strip of coastal jungle.

Hundreds of e