Disease risk in Sri Lanka war zone: Red Cross

March 17, 2009 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people trapped by fighting in Sri Lanka's north are facing serious risks of disease due to shortages of clean water and sanitation, the Red Cross said Tuesday. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the humanitarian situation was deteriorating fast as civilians still living in the rebel-held territory endured daily attacks and an increased danger of epidemics.

"The area is affected by shelling every day, and the cramped conditions and the lack of water and proper sanitation are putting people at risk," it said in a statement.

The Sri Lankan government estimates that 70,000 civilians are trapped in the island's northeast along with around 500 Tamil Tiger fighters.

The United Nations says the number of non-combatants could be about 200,000.

The military has surrounded the separatist guerrillas in a small patch of jungle and hopes to wipe out the rebels last fighters within weeks.

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