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Eyewitness:

‘I thought, I won’t survive’

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Almost 100,000 civilians have fled the war zone in Northern Sri Lanka. Journalists are generally not given access to fleeing civilians. But Swaminathan Natarajan of the BBC’s Tamil service managed to speak to Vinoo, a young mother who made this difficult journey and is now in a Government-controlled camp in Vavuniya.

******------

We were staying near Puttumatalan hospital. On the night of the 20th there was heavy shelling. I thought, I won’t survive. There was continuous shelling from midnight to the early morning.

Many civilians have made a harrowing journey from the war zone.

During that time we took shelter inside a bunker. At around 6am, when I came out of the bunker, I saw people running all around amid shelling. I also joined them. But soon I got injured in the legs and arms. My husband got injured in his head.

Some shrapnel is still inside his head. Still, we came out of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)-controlled area along with our son.

My mother and brother also started with us, but I don’t know what happened to them. I have lost all contact with them. The LTTE had built a bund and because of that structure it was difficult to move. People had to walk through neck-deep water.

Some children fell down in the water. It was difficult to cross that area. I don’t know how to describe that. We were trying to escape for the past month. We packed a few of our belongings and tried to escape at an opportune moment.

But we were prevented by the LTTE from escaping from the area.

Once we crossed over to the Government-controlled areas we were checked in at a few checkpoints. They completely checked everything. They made a detailed account of the jewels I was wearing and took note of the cash I had with me.

After the checking we were kept in a military camp, in a place called Chalai. From there we were taken to a school and later we were brought to Vavuniya by bus. Before reaching Vavuniya we were checked again in the Omantai checkpoint.

There has been no proper food for the past three days. Yesterday afternoon we got something to eat. Today, only in the late afternoon, we got food. But the amount is very little. We three shared a single meal.

I have not been given any clothes. So I am still wearing a dress which got wet and is covered by mud and dirt. I have not taken a bath for the past three days. It is very difficult here. My husband’s bandage needs to be changed immediately.

In the LTTE-controlled areas life is very difficult. There is a huge shortage of food. There is heavy fighting and many are dying every day.

Some days it is difficult to get a single meal. So we planned to escape to the government-controlled areas. We were not bothered to take any of our belongings. We made three attempts in one month to escape but all of them were thwarted by the LTTE. Now we have come to safety.

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