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Civil war hampers aid for devastated Sri Lanka

Workers in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka, walk past the fire they used Friday to burn the bodies of two tsunami victims.
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MULLAITIVU, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Tsunami survivors are struggling to cope in northern Sri Lanka, already ravaged by two decades of civil war.

In the rebel-controlled town of Mullaitivu, a small building that had been used as a child care center before Sunday's tsunami was being used Friday as a cremation site.

One-hundred-fifty children were playing there when the giant waves hit. About 120 of them were killed. They were among tens of thousands of children killed throughout the region.

A CNN crew watched Friday as the bodies of three children, ages 1 to 3 years old, were cremated.

As the scope of the devastation became clearer, parents who lost children; children who lost parents; and friends and neighbors who saw entire families wiped out wailed in the streets.

Contaminated air and water were adding to health concerns for survivors and visitors. Inoculations are required to enter the region.

In many areas, food supplies were also contaminated.

Some land mines planted during the war between Sri Lankan forces and Tamil Tiger rebels were washed up by the tsunami, adding another deadly threat.

Rebel leaders have imposed a virtual clamp-down in the area around Mullaitivu. They warned people to stay off side streets and use only the few major streets that rebels have secured.

They have also set up checkpoints for people trying to enter the area.

Sri Lankan officials said they are working with the rebels to coordinate relief efforts. But those attempts have been limited by stretched resources, confusion, and in some cases, no communications.

S.P. Thamilselvan, of the Tigers' political wing, said some people "who were already devastated by the war" were trying to return to their villages when the tsunami struck. "Now, with this natural disaster, it has combined to create a major humanitarian crisis," he said.

Aid groups told CNN they are doing what they can to get through as quickly as possible.

U.N. officials expressed hope that the cooperation between the Sri Lankan government and the rebels could lay the groundwork for peace efforts in the future. But some Tamil Tiger officials complained that Colombo was neglecting the rebel-controlled north.

In the meantime, leaders and aid groups are worried about those left without daily necessities, and those who are ill and struggling, many of them young children.

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