Sri Lankan relief ship to set sail for Jaffna after delays

Sri Dharanee Performance Arts Theatre

Aug 22, 2006 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan cargo ship is to set sail Tuesday with food aid for the embattled Jaffna peninsula but it may go half-empty because bad weather has disrupted loading, officials said. The vessel must leave as the food is badly needed by civilians in the northern district where fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and troops erupted 11 days ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

“The ship should go today as it is urgently needed,” said Peter Krakolinig, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Sri Lanka.

The loading of food and medicine has been repeatedly halted because of heavy pre-monsoon rains but government workers warned that food would run out on Thursday in the besieged zone.

The voyage around the island will take at least 50 hours and further supply ships are expected in the coming days.

The ship had been due to leave Monday but heavy rain meant food could not be loaded while it was raining, the ICRC said.

Aid agencies planned to load the ship with 2,600 tonnes of food after receiving the go-ahead for safe passage from both sides involved in the three-decade ethnic conflict.

The ICRC said a ferry was also planned for later this week to bri