But at least 108 of the civilians fled rebel-controlled areas on the country's northeastern coast by boat, arriving further north on the Jaffna peninsula on Saturday.

Worsening conditions

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had evacuated 493 patients and their relatives by sea from the northeastern area of Puttumattalan to the northeastern town of Pulmoddai.

Sarasi Wijeratne, an ICRC spokeswoman, said the Red Cross had also delivered medicine to a hospital in Puttumattalan, where tens of thousands of people were believed to be trapped due to the fighting.

The ICRC has helped about 4,000 people leave the area this year, but it has warned conditions are getting worse for civilians by the day.

The LTTE has been fighting a secessionist battle for a separate Tamil homeland in the northeast since 1983. Tens of thousands of people have died in the fighting.