Rich nations pledge US$250M

UNITED NATIONS – The world’s richest nations have pledged more than US$250 million in emergency aid for victims of the killer earthquake and tidal wave that swept across southeast Asia to east Africa, and people around the globe have contributed millions more.

U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland told a news conference that US$220 million had been received in cash and pledges, but his list didn’t include several large pledges.

He said an equal amount had been pledged in relief goods and equipment, and military and defense assistance.

‘The genorisity of all traditional donor countries and also a very heartening number of new donor countries is very generous. It is phenomenol how people respond,’ said Egeland, who is also said.

‘I cannot remember that at day three of an emergency relief operation we’ve had pledges for US$220 million.’

The United Nations will launch an international appeal on Jan. 6 for money probably to cover the first six months of the emergency.

But even before that, Egeland appealed for US$130 million immediately for three of the hardest-hit countries: US$70 million for Sri Lanka, US$40 million for Indonesia and US$20 million for the Maldives.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said many billions of dollars will be need to rebuild the shattered countries – and Egeland said that even as the emergency is being tackled planning is getting under way for long-term reconstruction.

‘This is a huge disaster,’ Annan said on CNN Tuesday night, where he announced the date of the appeal. ‘And the cleanup and the reconstruction is going to be enormous. … And I hope the response will be generous.’

While the United Nations and other relief organizations are trying to get aid to the stricken areas as quickly as possible, Egeland said some of the Maldive islands and some parts of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which was closest to the earthquake’s epicenter, still haven’t been reached.

The Aceh region of Sumatra may be worst affected, and it has been reached, ‘but we’re doing very little at the moment,’ he said. ‘It will take maybe 48 to 72 hours more to able to respond to the tens of thousands of people who would like to have assistance today, or yesterday.’

He said he understood ‘the frustration’ of those who have not, and will not receive aid quickly.

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