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International Development Secretary Clare Short
"This is an act of God, and there isn't a simple thing that could have been done to prevent it"
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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 16:29 GMT
UK gives 10m to Indian quake victims
Victims of the earthquake in Gujarat
The earthquake has killed at least 20,000
The government has pledged 10m to help the victims of the Indian earthquake.

International Development Secretary Clare Short said the money would go towards emergency relief measures.

People should be proud that tax money is contributing

Clare Short
She said taxpayers should be proud that exchequer funds were being given towards the relief effort.

It is now feared that as many as 20,000 people may have died in the quake. Thousands of bodies are still buried under collapsed buildings.

'A monumental disaster'

Ms Short described Friday's earthquake in India's western state of Gujarat as "a natural disaster of monumental proportions".

She told MPs: "Remember this is an area the size of Wales. They will need plenty of resources."

She added: "People should be proud that tax money is contributing. Every British taxpayer is contributing."

Ms Short said the money had been made available by the Treasury.

Clare Short
Clare Short: The UK should be proud of its contribution
"I am really grateful to the Treasury. We are at the year end," she said.

"The Treasury has come forward and said we can have more."

The government is to send three aircraft carrying 1,200 tents and other items to India.

A fourth aircarft will carry 10 sets of trauma equipment and plastic sheeting while a search and rescue team from the UK is already in the region.

Ms Short told MPs that 95% of buildings in the city of Bhuj, one of the worst hit by the quake, were no longer habitable.

She added: "Organisation by the Indian government is good. But international help is needed to ensure that all who survived the earthquake, but have lost everything, are provided with healthcare and other basic essentials."

She said that the Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair had sent messages of sympathy to the Indian government.

Ms Short told the Commons: "This is a very, very serious disaster."

She told MPs that the organisation of relief by the Indian government was good, but stressed that co-ordinated international help was needed to help the survivors.

Conservative Party spokesman Gary Streeter expressed "shock and sadness" at the disaster and welcomed the government's "rapid response" in sending out specialist search and rescue staff.

"We will support any reasonable steps taken by the government in the short term and the longer term rescue work."

Liberal Democrat international development spokeswoman Jenny Tonge expressed her "sincere condolences to the Hindu communities affected by the earthquake both here in this country and in India".

She called on the government to ensure that money was made available to give concerned Gujarati families living in the UK the chance to contact their relatives in India. Aid appeal

International aid agencies have called for emergency supplies as the first shipments of food, medicine and tents began to arrive.

Houses, apartment buildings and even entire villages were levelled by the earthquake, forcing thousands to sleep outdoors. Hospitals have been overwhelmed.

Most gas pipelines, power supply stations and water services were knocked out.

Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya said people were in desperate need of food, water and petrol.

''Immediately we need 25,000 to 30,000 tents to set up some camps for the homeless,'' he said.

Mr Pandya said the government had set up satellite phones to replace the telephone services which were out of order.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | Business
The cost of India's quake
29 Jan 01 | South Asia
Prosperous Gujarat laid low
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