Page last updated at 08:02 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 09:02 UK

UK agencies launch Burma appeal

People affected by the cyclone waiting for aid
More than half a million people in the Irrawaddy delta region need assistance

UK aid agencies have launched an urgent joint appeal to raise funds for the victims of Burma's cyclone.

The death toll is now believed to be more than 22,000, with another 41,000 people missing. Thousands more have no clean water or shelter.

The Disasters Emergency Committee said the scale of the disaster meant the need for aid was "immediate and vast".

The UK government has already pledged 5m in aid for survivors of the cyclone, which hit Burma on Saturday.

The storm, which brought winds of up to 120mph (193km/h) and caused a huge tidal surge, is already being seen as the worst natural disaster in East Asia since the 2005 tsunami.

The committee, which has 13 members including the British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children, launches and co-ordinates responses to major disasters overseas.

It said any money raised would be spent on both immediate relief and long-term reconstruction.

DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said: "Our members are there and need the UK public to show huge generosity to help them reach those thousands of people who have seen their lives and livelihoods uprooted by this disaster."

Several of organisations that form part of the DEC had already made their own pleas for donations to help ease food shortages and to provide other emergency supplies.

Oxfam has released 250,000 from its funds and put a team on standby to travel to the country.

The British Red Cross has also released 30,000 and said it had 17,000 volunteers from Burma on the ground handing out cooking and hygiene kits, drinking water and mosquito nets through its affiliate, the Myanmar Red Cross.

Britons registered

One of the people reported missing on Wednesday - Briton Tom Bourden, from Eastbourne, in Sussex - has made contact with his family to say he is safe.

It is not known exactly how many British people are currently in Burma. The FCO said that about 200 Britons were registered with the British embassy.

Those are likely to be people staying in the country for long periods, such as expatriates, rather than tourists, most of whom would not be registered.

As Burma is currently in the rainy season, the FCO said it did not expect large numbers of British tourists to be in the country.

Almost all of the deaths from the cyclone occurred in the country's Irrawaddy river delta region, where more people were killed by the tidal wave than the cyclone itself.

Many of the coastal areas in the area remain cut off due to extensive flooding and road damage.

The cyclone also caused massive damage in the former capital, Rangoon, felling trees and cutting power supplies.

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