Photographs: Tamil civilians wade across Nandiakadal lagoon over to Sri Lankan army territory on May 14th 2009.
Marking 9 years since the Sri Lankan military onslaught that massacred tens of thousands of Tamils, we revisit the final days leading up to the 18th of May 2009 – a date remembered around the world as ‘Tamil Genocide Day’. The total number of Tamil civilians killed during the final months is widely contested. After providing an initial death toll of 40,000, the UN found evidence suggesting that 70,000 were killed. Local census records indicate that at least 146,679 people are unaccounted for and presumed to have been killed during the Sri Lankan military offensive.
14th May 2009
Last hospital stops functioning
The last remaining makeshift hospital in the conflict zone, set up inside a school, ceases to function from this day as Sri Lankan military shelling becomes heavier.
The OISL reports,
“After 14 May 2009, the doctors could no longer go to the hospital due to the intensity of the shelling, and it had to be closed. Dozens of patients who could not be moved were left behind.”
“Medical personnel were seen putting up a white flag and moved some patients to shelter, then, with the patients who were able to, they started to walk towards the Vadduvakal bridge to the south. Some 150 patients were left behind, as their injuries were too serious for them to be moved and they could not be evacuated by ship.”
Photograph: Sri Lankan soldeirs march into the final conflict zone backed by artillery fire on May 14th 2009.
It adds that the LTTE gave orders on this day to ensure civilians fleeing the conflict zone would not be stopped.
“From 14 May, tens of thousands civilians heeded the calls of SLA soldiers with megaphones and slowly walked along the A35 road lined with SLA positions towards the Vadduvakal bridge, which was one of the main crossing points. Most surviving LTTE fighters had discarded their uniforms, laid down weapons and other military equipment and donned civilian dress. Along with other LTTE political cadres, they walked amongst the crowds with their families.”
The UN Petrie report stated that as “several thousand civilians continued to flee the NFZ, mostly south along the lagoon, some walking, some on small boats or clinging to inflated tyres… Artillery fire reportedly continued from Government forces”.
Photographs: Above and right. Tamil civilians cross over into Sri Lankan military territory, many by wading across Nandikadal laggon amidst heavy artillery fire. May 14th 2009.
No respite from the shelling
The LTTE Peace Secretariat reported that the Sri Lankan military had continued shelling, killing thousands of civilians. Extracts reproduced below.
“The local aid workers in Vanni Region estimated 1700 civilians have been killed and over 3000 injured in the last 48 hours due to the persistent use of heavy artillery and mortars by the Sri Lankan armed forces.”
“We call upon the international community to protect the civilians from this ongoing carnage by taking whatever measure required. The LTTE is ready to engage with the International Community in its actions to bring an end to the humanitarian crisis.”