A SRI Lankan health official said on Friday that fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels was killing around 40 civilians a day.
Aid groups have estimated that more than 200,000 civilians are trapped in a tiny strip of land still controlled by the rebels along the north-eastern coast.
Mullaittivu district health officer Dr Thurairajah Varatharajah said that artillery barrages were routinely hitting civilian areas in the region.
He added that the makeshift hospital that he was running in a school in the coastal town of Putumattalan was overwhelmed by casualties.
Dr Varatharajah said that the facility was badly understaffed since most of the doctors and nurses had either fled the war zone or had stopped coming to work and that the hospital was running out of some essential antibiotics and anaesthetics.
He added that civilians in the area had been suffering heavy casualties for three to four weeks as the military pushed the Tamil Tigers into the area, estimating that more than 100 wounded civilians were coming to the hospital every day, most of them with injuries from artillery shells.
Patients and medical staff were forced to evacuate the hospital in the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu last week after it came under heavy shelling for days. The staff, with the help of the Red Cross, set up a makeshift hospital in Putumattalan.
Dr Varatharajah claimed that the area around the hospital had been shelled on Monday, killing 22 people.
The artillery fire appeared to have stopped on Friday after the government declared a 7.5-mile coastal strip that included the hospital a “safe zone” and pledged not to attack it, he said.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state for minority Tamils. More than 70,000 people have been killed.
The Sri Lankan government rejected Britain’s decision to appoint a special envoy to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation and help resolve the country’s ethnic conflict.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown named former defence secretary Des Browne as his special envoy for Sri Lanka on Thursday, but President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cabinet called the unilateral decision by Sri Lanka’s former colonial ruler “unhelpful,” noting that London had failed to consult with Colombo before announcing Mr Browne’s appointment.