Sri Lanka’s war machine gears for relief as tsunami toll nears 22,500

Sri Lanka mobilised its entire public service and the military into an internationally-backed relief operation to stave off hunger and disease as the tsunami death toll neared 22,500. Sri Lanka mobilised its entire public service and the military into an internationally-backed relief operation to stave off hunger and disease as the tsunami death toll neared 22,500. The president’s relief co-ordinating unit said at least 22,493 people were killed in the worst tragedy to hit a nation otherwise plagued by ethnic bloodshed that has killed 60,000 in three decades.

The government speeded up mass burials for rotting corpses left by a wall of water that killed at more than 80,000 people across Asia after it was touched off by an underwater earthquake Sunday near Indonesia.

Sri Lanka’s chief relief co-ordinator, Tilak Ranavirajah, said systems were overloaded and admitted they were still trying to come to grips with the scale of the task ahead.

“We can’t even think of guessing the size of the destruction,” Ranavirajah told AFP. “The priority is to get the supplies to the people in most need. We have the entire public service and the military mobilised for the job.”