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UN: Tsunami Relief Effort Will be Biggest Ever


United Nations global relief coordinator Jan Egeland says the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that swept across southern Asia will require the biggest relief effort in history.

Mr. Egeland, who has worked in emergency relief efforts for a quarter century, says the level of devastation will be unprecedented, particularly because of the distances involved. He says the United Nations will have to mount five parallel operations, stretching U.N. resources.

Mr. Egeland says donor countries have pledged over $220 million so far. He says a number of contributors are from the hardest-hit region and from countries that don't usually respond to fund-raising drives.

"I would say that one of the biggest donors now would be India,” he said. “India has been a donor before, but they have sent three navy ships, a number of helicopters. These are very considerable assets. Singapore has also sent a large contingent. Also a donor, but not one of the biggest donors traditionally. We had one of the gulf nations pledging $10 million, Saudi Arabia, but there was also another one."

Mr. Egeland welcomed President Bush's announcement of a coalition with Australia, India, and Japan to coordinate relief and reconstruction efforts, and said this will complement U.N. plans.

"There are many groups of nations now involved in this massive effort and these four are among the most important,” he added. “They have also special possibilities to deploy military and civil defense assets to the region, for example. I have been in contact with Washington a number of times in recent days. We are coordinating excellently."

Mr. Egeland says money being raised now is to respond to the immediate needs such as water, sanitation, food and shelter. The United Nations plans to launch another appeal January 6 for long-term assistance.

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