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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 17:44 GMT
'Black Santa' helps quake victims
Black Santa appeal in Belfast
Dean Houston McKelvey is extending his charity appeal
More than 40,000 has been raised in a single day in Belfast for the victims of the undersea earthquake in south-east Asia.

Dean Houston McKelvey's collection barrel was placed outside the city's St Anne's Cathedral for new donations on Wednesday.

The city's annual Black Santa charity Christmas appeal raised over 200,000 for local charities during the pre-Christmas sit-out.

About 68,000 people are reported killed and millions are homeless, after massive waves hit coastal areas around the Indian Ocean on Sunday.

The dean said the response was "quite staggering and moving".

"All age groups and all walks of life came along - the generosity of young people in particular was noticeable," he said.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tom Ekin, gave his backing to the appeal.

Lord Rana
Lord Rana is setting up a Northern Ireland-based fund
"If every man, woman and child in the city of Belfast gave just 1, we could raise more than 270,000 to offer much needed practical support to the people of this devastated region," he said.

The collection will continue at the cathedral in Donegall Street from 1000 GMT to 1600 GMT until Saturday.

Since 1976, successive deans of Belfast have sat outside the cathedral to raise money for charity, and were dubbed Black Santa because of their distinctive clothing.

In another development, Indian-born businessman Lord Rana is setting up a Northern Ireland-based fund to help victims of the disaster.

"We are appealing to business organisations and individuals to contribute generously to this fund," he said.

"Whatever we raise, we will pick up a project which Northern Ireland people can be associated with."

Alex Blair pictured in 1994
Missing historian Alex Blair pictured in 1994
Lord Rana said people who wished to contribute could give money at any branch of the First Trust bank.

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said on Wednesday that dozens of Irish people were still unaccounted for, and it would take days or even weeks to locate them.

Meanwhile, there are fears for the safety of an historian from County Antrim who is missing in Sri Lanka following the Indian Ocean sea surges.

Alex Blair was on holiday when the coast was hit by the giant waves on Sunday.

Mr Blair's family and friends have so far been unable to contact him. They say he is due to fly home on Friday.

A wide stretch of Sri Lanka's eastern coastline - from Jaffna in the north to the popular tourist beaches in the south - was devastated.

Massive aid effort gets under way
28 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific


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