How you can help the victims of the tsunami
Each day, each hour, brings new and more horrific reports from the stricken countries of the Indian Ocean. However measured, the scale of this catastrophe is beyond imagining. The geographical spread of destruction is without precedent. The number of people confirmed dead already exceeds 75,000; millions are left without homes. Families have been destroyed, livelihoods ruined, flourishing communities washed away.
This is truly a disaster of the global age. The first graphic reports were beamed to our television sets from Thailand and Sri Lanka. From Sumatra, from the Andaman Islands, from the further reaches of southern India, from Somalia, the scenes and sounds of devastation keep coming. Many of these places were tropical holiday paradises where First and Third World were united - first in pleasure and commerce, then in helplessness before nature's might.
With one cruel difference. First World survivors are being flown home to the safe, predictable surroundings they know. For millions of others there are no homes to return to, no safety and no predictability. Their need is urgent. This is why The Independent is launching an appeal on behalf of the Tsunami Earthquake Appeal, initiated by the Disasters Emergency Committee. We are inaugurating it with a £10,000 donation.
The almost Biblical scale of this catastrophe may leave even the most altruistic of individuals feeling helpless. What can one person do in the face of such utter, elemental destruction? A contribution to The Independent appeal is a positive and immediate way in which you can help.
The DEC is an umbrella for a dozen established and respected British charities, including the British Red Cross, Help the Aged, Oxfam and Save the Children. It brings together some of the widest and longest and most professional experience in disaster assistance. By joining forces, these charities can co-ordinate their efforts and ensure that their resources are used most effectively. Their airlifts have already begun.
But time is especially of the essence - time, and money. As many as five million people across 10 different countries are in need of immediate help simply to stay alive. Heroic though the early efforts of the local and national governments concerned have often been, help is imperative.
Many of the needs are elementary: clean water, shelter, food, clothes and medicine are essential. Other requirements are more sophisticated: forensic assistance to help identify the dead; computers to register details of the missing - or in the longer term: tanks and drilling equipment to provide water storage and new wells; new boats, nets and shore facilities to help restore the fishing industry on which so many communities relied.
Although The Independent is a young newspaper, our readers have an established and admirable tradition of generosity. Our appeal on behalf of Darfur in Sudan raised a record amount this summer, and our Christmas appeals are always well supported. The Independent's tsunami appeal is exceptional, to address an exceptional disaster. Please give it your support.