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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 16:25 GMT


Mitch appeal response 'best ever'

The region's economies have been devastated

The UK appeal to raise funds for Central American victims of Hurricane Mitch received £1.5m in credit card pledges from 73,000 donors on its first day.

George Eykyn reports on how HMS Ocean has already saved lives
The Disasters Emergency Committee, co-ordinating British aid agencies' fundraising, said it was the "best response ever" to an appeal.

Donations are now expected to reach at least £10m - far outstripping the original £7m target - to add to the £5m already given by the agencies.

Hurricane Mitch
The success of the campaign follows news that Britain and France have each pledged £10m to start an international trust fund to rebuild the shattered economies of the countries hit by the hurricane.

The BBC's Andrew Bomford: "Reconstruction will cost £1.5 billion"
UK Chancellor Gordon Brown also called for a global suspension of debt payments owed by the stricken Central American nations.

The French government has already offered to scrap the debts it was owed by countries devastated by the disaster.

June Kelly: UK reaching out to help
Earlier Central American leaders had appealed for the debts of the worst-hit nations to be written off, claiming that the hurricane had set the development of Honduras and Nicaragua back 50 years.

Reconstruction is estimated to cost at least £1.5bn.

'We want to help'

[ image: Brown: Suspend debt payments]
Brown: Suspend debt payments
Mr Brown said he would send a letter to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund setting out the Anglo-French proposal for a fund to help rebuild the "shattered economies" of Central America.

He hoped that the offers to get the fund rolling would encourage other countries to contribute.

"We want to do what we can and play our full part and help not only not only with what is to be done immediately, but with the rebuilding of the economies."

Gordon Brown: Hope other countries would contribute to the fund
Mr Brown also gave his backing to the joint £7m emergency appeal which has been set up by 15 major UK aid agencies.

He pointed out that recent changes to tax relief regulations, meant that a donation of £100, even if spread over three years, could mean a charity benefited by up to £140.

[ image: Charities have joined forces to appeal for cash]
Charities have joined forces to appeal for cash
At least 11,000 people are known to have died as a result of the hurricane and about five million of the survivors are thought to be in need of urgent help.

Up to one million are thought to be homeless. The destruction of most crops in the region has raised the threat of widespread starvation.

A lack of clean water and medical supplies has also increased the risk of disease.

[ image: UK troops are delivering supplies by helicopter]
UK troops are delivering supplies by helicopter
The task of aid distribution has been made more difficult by the massive damage sustained by the infra-structures of the affected countries.

Numerous bridges and roads were destroyed or rendered impassable by Mitch.

British agencies have already begun to fly into the region and hundreds of UK troops are helping to get supplies through to isolated regions of Nicaragua and Honduras.

The number to call to contribute to the aid agencies' appeal is 0870 60 60 900.

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