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WORLD

Huge aid effort gathers speed


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Thousands have drowned and thousands are missing after a tsunami strikes India.

Eyewitnesses describe the devastation of the tsunami that hit across southern Asia.

Tsunamis scour coastlines around Asia.

The relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis.
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(CNN) -- One of the world's largest relief efforts is gaining momentum as countries and aid organizations make more donations of funding, supplies and personnel to areas ravaged by earthquake-triggered tsunamis.

Nations around the world have pledged aid funding.

The United States is offering a total of $35 million, followed by Japan with $30 million. Australia and Germany have now pledged $27 million, Saudi Arabia $10 million.

A number of other countries also are reportedly planning to participate in the relief effort.

Spain has sent a plane carrying medical kits and other aid material. Those aboard include representatives of the Spanish government, the Spanish Red Cross and the organizations Doctors of the World and Messenger of Peace.

Australia has sent four C-130 Hercules aircraft to Indonesia, loaded with medical supplies, water purification equipment and health teams.

A further 60 tonnes of humanitarian aid and specific items such as generators, as requested by the Indonesians, are also to be sent via a commercially chartered aircraft.

Pentagon officials said Tuesday the United States is also making plans to send ships, supplies, helicopters and, if needed, hundreds of troops to assist in humanitarian relief.

A decision on assistance will be made after military assessment teams reach the region, authorities said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has revised its initial appeal for aid. Its first request for financial assistance was for $6.6 million, based on a preliminary assessment of how much it would cost to launch the relief effort. That request has been revised to $44 million, according to spokesperson Sian Bowen.

Aid is also coming from some unlikely sources.

Inmates of one of India's largest correctional facilities, the Tihar jail, collected close to $1,675 to donate to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund on Tuesday. The jail's staff also contributed their day's salary.

Twelve relief agencies in Britain have formed a Disasters Emergency Committee to handle the joint appeal for aid, and plan to pool their donations as of midnight Tuesday. Officials say the committee will coordinate central efforts, but the organizations themselves will still work independently on the ground.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), however, urged citizens, organizations and countries to hold back and wait for a needs assessment to be conducted before anything is sent.

While there is a need for shelter, food and water in the affected countries, "it will take a few days to get everything under control," said Dr. Dana Van Alphen, an emergency preparedness advisor in PAHO's office of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief.

She repeated advice given by other aid officials that donors should send cash rather than supplies, which can hamper rather than help relief efforts.

The Center for International Disaster Information explains on its Web site that "financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what disaster victims need most urgently and to pay for the transportation necessary to distribute those supplies."

The Web site, cidi.org, provides a list of agencies working to aid victims of the tsunami, along with contact information.

--CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman and CNN's Ram Ramgopal and Grant Holloway contributed to this report.


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