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    Asian Celebrities, Companies Pledge Millions for Tsunami Victims

    Heda Bayron

    Asian celebrities, businessmen and companies are showing solidarity with the victims of Sunday's catastrophic tsunamis by pledging millions of dollars in aid.

    Within 24 hours of Sunday's killer earthquake-spawned tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, aid agencies started calling for donations to help victims of the calamity.

    Among the first Asian celebrities to offer money was Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing. Mr. Li, a property tycoon, pledged some $3 million - more than China's government initially pledged.

    Other Hong Kong celebrities responded to the call. Popular action movie star Jackie Chan says he will be giving some $64,000 to the United Nations children's fund, UNICEF. Other Hong Kong-based actors Chow Yun-fat, Andy Lau, Stephen Chow and singer Leon Lai pledge tens of thousands of dollars each.

    Companies also showed their generosity. Property developer New World Development pledged $64.000 to UNICEF.

    "We would like to take this chance to lead within the HK community to try to help these unfortunate people," said Aldous Chiu, the investor relations manager of the company.

    Only a few Hong Kong people on holiday in Thailand were affected by the disaster. But Albert Chen, a spokesman for the aid group Oxfam, says Hong Kong responded swiftly to the disaster.

    "It's very encouraging. They [donors] come from all walks of life. Most are just ordinary names. Some corporates are starting to have programs to raise money for the effort as well," he said.

    The death toll in 11 Indian Ocean countries has exceeded 60,000 and counting, with Sri Lanka and Indonesia the worst affected.

    The United Nations says it is staging the biggest relief effort in history. U.N. experts are warning that aid must arrive soon, or the death toll could double.

    Elsewhere in the region, airlines are giving free rides to volunteer doctors and urging frequent fliers to donate air miles to aid workers. Some Singapore taxicabs have also started accepting

    contributions.

    In Australia, the national telecommunications company Telstra, promised to give rebates for one month for calls between Australia and affected countries. It also gave $390,000 to the relief effort.

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