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Latest from cyclone devastated Burma -

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Latest from cyclone devastated Burma

The World Today - Tuesday, 6 May , 2008 12:10:00

Reporter: Karen Barlow

ELEANOR HALL: In Burma and it's taken three long days but the true horror of Cyclone Nargis is now
being revealed.

The Burmese regime says more than 10,000 people were killed by the category three storm that hit on
Saturday and aid agencies say millions of people have been made homeless.

And the final death toll could be much higher. Burma's state television is reporting this morning
that 10,000 people were killed in just one town, Bogalay on the Irrawaddy delta.

The international community is now rallying to help the victims.

But it has been extremely difficult getting information out of the impact zone where the cyclone
hit at up to 190 kilometres an hour not only because of the extensive damage but because of the
military regime's secretive attitude.

World Vision Australia is one of the few aid groups permanently stationed in Burma it's head Tim
Costello has been speaking to Karen Barlow.

TIM COSTELLO: Oh look it's terrible information the death tolls are much, much higher than the 385
we were hearing last night in the thousands, as high as 10,000 and our staff and 600 on the ground
who have rushed to the worst affected areas despite communications being down, are reporting that
this is huge, this is massive it's not necessarily quite tsunami level but in terms of impact of
millions displaced, thousands dead, it is terrible.

KAREN BARLOW: The military junta says 10,000 people have died at least, do you confirm that?

TIM COSTELLO: Yeah, absolutely at least and I sadly say we might expect that to rise, our
experience you know in the tsunami was that the first estimates are always way, way under, so what
we're talking about are awful human toll, an awful human cost.

KAREN BARLOW: The miliary rulers have made a rare appeal for help; the scale of the disaster must
have astounded them. What sort of contact have you had with them?

TIM COSTELLO: We have an office that's been working in lots of areas of Burma for you know over 15
years, some 600 staff on the ground.

We applied for permission to send in our humanitarian experts from outside the country which
permission was given, they left last night to go in.

We're very grateful for that obviously Burma is a very, very politically sensitive situation and
you wait until you're invited because it has been a closed society.

KAREN BARLOW: The people and supplies that you already had on the ground to help with the Burmese
people before this cyclone, are they already exhausted?

TIM COSTELLO: Yeah we have to raise three million dollars just for the first month because those
supplies are normal development work where you are building capacity and health and education and
agriculture.

This is a disaster where you've got to get in quickly, you've got to just save life, do whatever it
takes to get the food, the tents, the water purifiers because that, those basic needs are the
fundamental risk areas right at the moment.

KAREN BARLOW: The three agonising days that have now elapsed between when the disaster happened and
getting this information out, have we lost valuable time?

TIM COSTELLO: Look I wont comment on the political situation, people make their own judgements,
obviously this isn't a place where you have lots of press who immediately and transparently
publicise the need and you have all hands to the pump.

This is a very different political context.

KAREN BARLOW: But also there has been the lack of power and telecommunications, so apart from the
political state of play there has been the power problems about getting information out and there
has been those three days.

TIM COSTELLO: Absolutely, the difficulties in communicating are enormous, even mobile phones in
Yangon aren't working, so our job is to get in there, to get a birds eye assessment as soon as
possible to say how we collaborate with the UN and the Red Cross who also have been given
permission and to start responding and to do that you have to know where the greatest need is,
who's working where.

You have to have that bird's eye view and that's what our teams are assessing right at the moment.

KAREN BARLOW: And what do you think of the international response so far?

TIM COSTELLO: Oh look I think the international response will be very, very generous, I think it's
too handicapped by just lack of clarity as to the scale, what's appropriate for them to be giving
and getting supplies in.

But now that permission has been given by the Burmese Government, we have to move really quickly.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's Tim Costello from World Vision Australia speaking to Karen Barlow.