They dodged bullets from retreating Tamil Tiger separatists and braved shelling by the Sri Lankan army before reaching safety at Menik Farm, Sri Lanka's biggest refugee complex.
Some 200,000 Tamil civilians have now found temporary shelter in the government-run centre after escaping brutal fighting between the powerful army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.
Just days after Colombo declared victory over the rebels, visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon came face-to-face Saturday with the despair of war-hit civilians as he toured the main refugee camp and flew over the devastated war zone.
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Image: Refugees in a Menik Farm displaced persons camp in Vavuniya in Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 23, 2009.
Tamil refugees badly in need of food, water and sanitation: UN chief