Sri Lanka Update III Mark Leon Goldberg April 23, 2009Ban Ki Moon's Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar returned from Sri Lanka to brief the Security Council yesterday evening on the unfolding humanitarian crisis there. The briefing occurred behind closed doors, but following the meeting Mexican U.N. Ambassador Claude Heller, speaking on behalf of the entire Council, expressed "deep concern" for the plight of civilians caught in the conflict and "strongly condemned" the LTTE for preventing civilians from leaving the conflict zone.This is pretty timid response. True, the LTTE deserve condemnation for holding civilians as human shields. But so too does the government of Sri Lanka for shelling densly populated areas where these civilians are trapped. Susan Rice, at least, sounded the right notes. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice criticized the Sri Lanka government for not providing full assistance to all civilians who manage to escape the rebel-held zone.She also suggested that both the Tamil Tigers and the government might be guilty of violating international law."The fact that both sides have been shooting at civilians as they leave the safe zone is one gross manifestation of the apparent violation of international humanitarian law," Rice said.It is a shame that other members of the Security Council would not endorse these sentiments. Part of the problem is that China and Russia consider this an internal matter to Sri Lanka and are not willing to hold a "formal discussions" about the conflict.Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders posts a chilling interview with surgeon Paul McMaster from Vavuniya hospital in Sri Lanka.What is the situation at the hospital now?We and our Sri Lankan colleagues have been dealing with casualties brought into us over these last few days from the conflict in the north of us. We've been seeing very severely wounded patients, the numbers of patients have increased rapidly over the last three or four days, so we're seeing a stream of badly wounded people being brought into us.Our hospital has got about 450 beds, and we've now got more than 1,700 patients in the hospital-on the floor, in the corridors, and even outside. So the hospital is very close to being overwhelmed.What conditions are the patients arriving in?About three-quarters of the injured coming in now have suffered from blast injuries, and the rest are gunshot wounds and mine explosions. We're seeing who've survived on the field and actually reached us. We see abdominal injuries, but many of the chest or head injuries we're suspecting don't survive the blasts to get to us.