Aid workers said one in ten of the 280,000 civilian refugees who fled the Sri Lankan army’s final onslaught against the Tamil Tiger rebels had either lost limbs or been so badly injured they urgently needed prosthetic limbs or wheelchairs to regain their mobility.
The disclosure of thousands of severely maimed and disabled civilian victims contradicts the claims of Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has said his army rescued 280,000 “hostages” without any civilian casualties.
The scale of civilian casualties who have been maimed in the war was disclosed by the award-winning French charity Handicap International, which works with the victims of war throughout the world.
The charity, which has a small factory producing artificial limbs in Batticaloa in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, has opened an emergency unit at one of the centres for people who fled the fighting, and is working with other suppliers to meet what it described a “huge demand”.
Aid workers said nearly all of the people had been the victims of relentless Sri Lankan shelling of the civilian safe zone, where the last of the Tamil Tiger leadership made its last stand before it was wiped out last week.