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Last Updated: Monday, 27 December, 2004, 05:48 GMT
Relief teams head for quake zone
People walk through debris in Sri Lanka
Relief agencies are trying to avoid more deaths in the stricken areas
Relief agencies are gearing up to bring aid to the areas hit by the disastrous Asian earthquake.

Humanitarian agencies around the world have been preparing to deploy aid once they establish where help is needed most.

Andrew Sundersingh, a relief director from World Vision International in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, said it would be setting up relief stations on the east and south coasts where massive waves had hit.

"We are right now preparing to target about 1,000 people with a feeding programme. We will be setting up in four districts affected," he said.

Speedy response

But he said that more than one million people in Sri Lanka alone had been affected by the surges.

Mr Sundersingh said World Vision would also be bringing blankets and children's clothing.

"We are saying we will need about $1m (521,000) just for the first seven days of the operation," he said.

The flood waters will have contaminated drinking water and food will be scarce
Jasmine Whitbread, Oxfam's international director

Unicef said that many of the victims had been children.

"At least one third of the reported dead are children as the beaches and the coastal areas are home to thousands of people, living in makeshift huts and houses where children play and help their families," a spokeswoman said.

The organisation would be distributing water purification units, oral rehydration salts, high protein biscuits and basic emergency health kits.

Oxfam warned aid would need to reach the stricken areas as quickly as possible if further deaths were to be averted.

"The flood waters will have contaminated drinking water and food will be scarce. Oxfam already has staff in the worst affected regions assessing how we can best help," said Oxfam's international director Jasmine Whitbread.

International Rescue Corps
The International Rescue Corps have training in flood victim rescue

Oxfam flood experts were flying to the worst hit regions, she added.

The search and rescue agency International Rescue Corps (IRC), which specialises in locating people trapped in collapsed buildings or rubble, had been on standby to send a team to one of the stricken areas, but has now been stood down.

"We've been told the focus for groups in the region has moved to the humanitarian effort, sending in relief supplies and finding shelter for survivors, and not a rescue effort," a spokeswoman said.

Information 'paramount'

"At the moment it's a waiting game, we're waiting to see if our assistance is needed," she said.

The European Union has pledged 3m euros (2.1m) to disaster relief, which will be distributed by non-governmental agencies such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The British Red Cross has said it has stockpiles of supplies in many of the countries and would be trying to get the equipment to the disaster area as quickly as possible.

"For us at the moment gathering information is absolutely paramount," a spokesman said.

He said the International Red Cross had launched a preliminary appeal to try to raise 7.5m Swiss francs (3.41m). The British Red Cross is also launching its own appeal.

'Long term consequences'

Britain's Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn confirmed his department is sending two people to join UN disaster response teams and said others are on standby.

He said: "It's clear that many people have lost their lives in this terrible tragedy, while hundreds of thousands of others are now having to deal with the aftermath.

"We are doing all we can to offer practical help and support."

Christian Aid said it was sending 250,000 to help with the immediate relief effort in Sri Lanka and India, and had set up an appeal.

Local partner groups in India, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka were already delivering food and water to victims, a spokeswoman said.

"The long term consequences of this disaster will be massive and far reaching," she said.




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