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Claire Short MP
"Mozambique is the priority. We want to save people"
 real 28k

Saturday, 4 March, 2000, 12:12 GMT
RAF crews join aid effort
Helicopter rescue
British crews will confront a desperate situation
British soldiers are heading to Mozambique to join the international rescue effort after the devastating floods that have left up to one million people homeless.

Four Puma helicopters are being flown to the capital Maputo - the first British armed forces presence in the ravaged African country.

The Royal Navy's Fort George vessel is taking a further five Sea King helicopters and will take seven days to reach the country.

Armed forces
The British armed forces in Hoedspruit, South Africa
The arrival of troops in the region sparked a diplomatic dispute when an advance unit of about 100 British soldiers landed in Hoedspruit, South Africa, despite being denied permission.

The MoD said the misunderstanding led to minor problems for Puma helicopter crews arriving at the air base, but it had swiftly been resolved.

They will begin work as a second consignment of aid from Britain arrives after an overnight journey from Manston airport, Kent.

The aircraft is carrying vital supplies, as well as firefighters and crews from the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

They are taking seven inflatable lifeboats, medical supplies and the remainder of 110 boats that could not fit on Thursday's first aid flight.

RNLI director Andrew Freemantle said it was the first time lifeboat crews had been involved in an overseas rescue mission since they went to floods in Bangladesh in 1988.


lifeboats
110 lifeboats are being sent
"We have been to floodings before, but never on this scale," he said.

"We are experts at handling lifeboats and in rescuing people from water so we have a role to play here, which is why we were asked to help."

The lifeboat crews are due to spend two weeks in Mozambique, but if they are needed longer relief crews will be sent out.

Their team leader, Ian Canavan, said they would be complementing the work of the helicopters.

"Helicopters can find it difficult to get to people stranded by water and we can go in the boats and pick them up."

On Saturday the money donated by people in the UK totalled 6.1m - adding to the 7m pledged by the government.

Television appeal

A phone line set up to receive donations was reported to have received 225,000 calls.

It follows a national television appeal on Thursday evening.

A spokeswoman for the Disasters Emergency Committee said: "The response last night was amazing and it has continued into today with pledges coming in thick and fast."

Meanwhile, Mozambicans living in the UK are expected to meet their High Commissioner to discuss ways they can help their country.

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