Sri Lankan Refugees Describe Deadly Escape

10 of 21 make it to safety in India; refugees tell their story
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 5, 2009 2:35 PM CDT
Sri Lankan soldiers are seen outside a damaged church in the town of Mullaittivu, about 143 miles northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 27, 2009.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – As fighting raged between the Sri Lankan army and the rebel Tamil Tigers last month, 21 people managed to escape on a boat. But by the time they arrived in India, nine days later, only 10 remained. “One by one. Dead babies, children. No food. No drink,” one refugee tells the New York Times, adding that their grounded boat acted as a bunker before they took it to sea.

The refugees gave some insight into a region off-limits to journalists. The area where they hid is labeled a “no-fire zone,” but gets shelled every day, they said. They left after the worst fighting they’d seen, when the army advanced and civilians fled toward government land amid a barrage from both sides. After nine days at sea, an Indian fisherman rescued those who hadn’t died or jumped ship.