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Tuesday, November 10, 1998 Published at 13:38 GMT


£7m appeal for Mitch victims

Millions of people need help

British aid agencies have set up an emergency appeal to help the Central American countries devastated by Hurricane Mitch.

BBC Correspondent June Kelly: Honduras will need both aid and time to rebuild its shattered economy
The agencies, grouped together as the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal for Central America hope to raise £7m and have launched an emergency appeal hotline.

They say that they have already received requests from the region for more than £5m.

Emergency food supplies may be needed for months because much of the local crops have been destroyed.

"This is massive devastation and we are going to need to rebuild millions of people's lives," said Mike Whitlam, the Director General of the British Red Cross.

[ image: Mike Whitlam: Mammoth task ahead]
Mike Whitlam: Mammoth task ahead
Twelve days after the storm 11,000 people have been confirmed dead, many thousands more are missing with little hope of being found alive and up to a million are homeless.

It is the worst natural disaster to strike the region this century and is likely to worsen with the twin threats to the survivors of starvation and disease.

The four principal recipients of the relief fund will be Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala - the countries suffering the worst effects of flooding and widespread storm damage.

CAFOD Director John Filochowski: Dealing with massive destruction
In a statement, the DEC said: "Income from the appeal will help to provide an urgent, co-ordinated and effective response to the current humanitarian crisis."

The DEC co-ordinates funds for 15 major UK aid agencies and steps in when the scale of an emergency outstrips the capacity for their individual budgets to cope.

Trevor Eve presents an appeal for the Disasters Emergency Committee
The appeal will be promoted in television adverts featuring the actors Nigel Havers and Trevor Eve.

It is also benefitting from free advertising space in national newspapers.

Distribution problems

A major concern of the DEC will be to ensure that aid is being distributed and not simply left to rot on landing strips because there is no way to reach the worst affected areas.

Fergus Nicholl: Agencies need to be sure the aid gets through
Many roads across Central America have been completely destroyed by flood waters or blocked by falling debris.

British troops - 1,400 Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel - are already in the area and are focusing on getting supplies through to isolated regions of Nicaragua and Honduras along the dangerously swollen Rio Coco river.

[ image: Aid agencies must deal with a lack of infrastructure]
Aid agencies must deal with a lack of infrastructure
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "People are suffering from vomiting, dehydration, diarrhoea and disease from flood water and lack of drinking water."

The first delivery of British aid arrived on Monday with the Red Cross, which flew water purification tablets, portable water containers, medical supplies and blankets into Honduras.

Aid has been pouring in from other countries keen to help alleviate the suffering in the region, including the US, Mexico, Japan and other Western European nations.

The World Bank had announced that it is providing an additional $130m to help Central America.

The number to call if you want to contribute to the appeal is 0870 60 60 900.

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