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Sri Lankan Govt vows to end Tamil war -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Sri Lankan President has vowed to end the decades-long war with the
Tamil Tigers in 48 hours.

The Red Cross, however, is warning of an unimaginable humanitarian casualty. It says hundreds of
sick or seriously injured people have been waiting for days for medical care, but vital aid can't
get through to the conflict zone in the country's north-east because of the fighting.

Tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped, but about 5,000 others have been able to escape
over the past two days.

South Asia correspondent Sally Sara reports.

SALLY SARA, REPORTER: Sri Lanka says these surveillance pictures show people fleeing the conflict
zone under fire from the Tamil Tiger rebels. Their only way out to wade across a lagoon and escape.
They clamber on to a boat, overloading it in their desperation to get away. Once on dry land, they
run, carrying their belongings. At an army reception point, they're picked up by tractors and
driven to safety.

Sri Lanka's Government says it's close to freeing all those still trapped by the Tigers.

LAKSHMAN HULUGALLE, DIR. GEN. NATIONAL SECURITY: We expect another 7,000 to 8,000 people to be
there. If those people - if we get a chance of getting them within next couple of hours, like next
24 hours, then the war is over.

SALLY SARA: But according to the UN, there could be 50,000 people still in the war zone. These
pictures from pro-Tamil groups are said to show casualties injured in recent shelling by the army.
But as with images from the Government side, they're impossible to verify.

Aid workers say those who've escaped the fighting have shocking stories to tell.

MELANIE BROOKS, CARE INTERNATIONAL: One woman went for three days, nine months pregnant in a trench
filled with water. She showed me, as the water level went up and up and then she told me about how
she gave birth in that same trench.

SALLY SARA: And the international committee of the Red Cross says the suffering is now
unimaginable.

FLORIAN WESTPHAL, INT. COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS: The situation on the ground in Sri Lanka and the
area of the fighting is dramatic. It's really an unimaginable catastrophe, and we don't use that
kind of term easily.

SALLY SARA: Those who do escape face further hardships, especially the children. According to UK
charity Save the Children, a growing number are becoming separated from their families. After being
severely traumatised by the war, they end up in the harsh environment of Government-controlled
camps.

Sally Sara, Lateline.