Sri Lanka airlifts food to stranded people of Jaffna

Oct 25, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has airlifted hundreds of tons of food and other essential items to Jaffna, which was cut off more than two months ago by fighting with Tamil rebels, the defense ministry said Wednesday. The military operated emergency flights Tuesday and Wednesday and was expected to ferry more goods to the northern area by boat as the A9 highway linking the peninsula to the rest of the island remains closed.

Both the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels blame each other for closing the main north-south road, a move which has “wreaked havoc” in Jaffna, where more than 40,000 people have sought refuge from the fighting, the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website said.

Hundreds of thousands of people normally living on the Tamil-majority peninsula are also dependent on government and NGO aid, putting enormous strain on efforts to keep people fed.

“If urgent steps are not taken, the residents will face severe humanitarian crisis … Jaffna residents face malnutrition and imminent starvation”, especially among children, Tamilnet said Wednesday.

The warning came as negotiators from the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) traveled to Geneva for peace talks, which it is hoped wil