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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December 2004, 19:18 GMT
Emergency aid in action
Thai soldiers arrange packs of drinking water
Drinking water is one of the main sources of aid

When the Asian tsunami struck, several charities and relief agencies mobilised an emergency plan of action to help the tens of thousands of victims left homeless by the disaster.

Food, water and medical supplies, were despatched immediately and shelter was set up to try and help those whose lives have been torn apart in India, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka by Sunday's Indian Ocean sea surges.

Many of the relief organisations which are currently operating under the umbrella of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), including, British Red Cross, Cafod and Care International UK have been faced with similar disasters before.

Offer assistance

British Red Cross spokeswoman Clare Finnigan says when such a crisis breaks out, every department joins forces to determine how best to respond.

There are volunteers that are usually already on the ground in each country who can provide basic assistance
Clare Finnigan
The organisation then contacts the International Federation of the Red Cross in Geneva and various branches in the affected countries to offer their assistance.

She said: "There are volunteers that are usually already on the ground in each country who can provide basic assistance and they tell us what they need to support them.

"We also have experts here in the UK on an emergency rota ready to go anywhere in the world when something like this happens. For example in this case three people were sent out to help in Sri Lanka on Monday.

"From there a plane load of logistical equipment including vehicles, generators, satellite telephones and pretty much everything they need is also usually sent over to help co-ordinate aid in the area."

"We would buy the materials in India for example because there is no point in buying them here in the UK if you can get them closer to the affected destination. It is a small help to the economy there as well," she added.

Immediate needs

Care International UK is another organisation which mobilises relief workers already based in the region.

We usually always assess what resources we have at hand that we can distribute.
Kate Bulbulian

Care International spokeswoman Kate Bulbulian says: "The first port of call is for an assessment team on the ground to assess what the damage is and what the immediate needs are.

"Normally we have a combination of local experts and people who are flown overseas who are skilled in a particular field.

"It all depends on the situation. We usually always assess what resources we have at hand that we can distribute.

"For example in Sri Lanka we have 250 staff across 17 offices and they immediately provided food to around 14,000 people in the first two days of the Asian earthquake."

In order to provide an immediate response, the organisation uses emergency reserve funding from cash donations made throughout the year.

Integrated strategy

Members of the Hindu Forum on the other hand usually join forces with other Hindu groups when disaster strikes.

The movement got together with 50 different organisations and set up their own Disaster Relief Task Force when they heard about the earthquake.

Their aim is to co-ordinate aid and relief work under one umbrella.

Hindu Forum
The Hindu Forum joined forces with 50 other organisations
Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum in the UK, said:"We often work in an integrated manner so that aid reaches those who need it the most at the right time.

"It is also helpful having several members in the task force such as ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness).

"They have a branch based in Bombay and they were immediately able to despatch 20 doctors, two ambulances and a truck load of food to victims in India."

The task force has already organised several appeals in the UK for funds, clothes and medicine and a further appeal is to be held at Kadwa Patidar Hall, in Harrow, north London, on Sunday.

Distressed Britons tell how they escaped

Hilary Benn explains more about the UK response

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