Kingdom Triples Its Aid For Tsunami Victims

RIYADH, 5 January 2005 — Saudi Arabia has tripled its assistance to Asia’s tsunami victims to $30 million. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd directed that the $10 million donation announced earlier by the Kingdom be raised to $30 million “in light of the size of the tragedy and the losses” suffered by the countries affected by the disaster, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah have instructed the Saudi Arabian Television to organize a telethon to collect donations for the victims. The telethon will be held tomorrow, Thursday, with phone-in addresses appearing on the screen.

Meanwhile a delegation from the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) left for Jakarta to participate in tomorrow’s summit of world leaders to discuss the scale of disaster and how to rebuild the devastated region.

Many Saudi businessmen and children have donated money and goods to help all the victims of the Asian tsunamis. One leading industrialist, who requested anonymity, told Arab News he had chartered a plane to take tons of aid, disinfectants and detergents to affected areas, while school children have donated their pocket money to help the victims. Three Saudi youths from Jubail are heading to Indonesia to help in the relief effort.

Most Saudis are reluctant to make public their charitable contributions, viewing this as a form of boasting, but many told Arab News they had decided to go public after foreign news stories accused Gulf states of being stingy in responding to the Asian calamity.

Local diplomatic missions, expatriate workers mainly from Asian countries and private organizations have also stepped up efforts to provide assistance to tsunami survivors.

Referring to participation of the Kingdom and the IDB in the Jakarta summit, Arif Suyoko, first secretary at the Indonesian Embassy, said that an IDB delegation led by Dr. Amadou Boubacar Isse, vice president, will participate in the meeting. The IDB delegation will also take stock of the situation on the ground during their stay in Indonesia. Suyoko said that Garuda Indonesia, the national carrier, has offered to carry relief materials free of cost to the devastated regions.

Asked whether India will receive aid granted by the international community including Saudi Arabia, T.N. Anantha Krishna, first secretary at the Indian Embassy, said that “the Red Crescent Society and the UN agencies will receive aid from donor nations and distribute them among needy countries on the basis of an assessment of the extent of loss of life and property”. Krishna, however, said that the Indian Embassy has already set up a special cell to receive contributions from Indian expatriates.

The International Indian Public School (IIPS) has become the first Indian school in the Kingdom to respond to the aid request by pitching in more than SR17,300 yesterday.

The Sri Lankan mission and Sri Lankan expatriates have topped the list of contributors. They, on their part, are working day and night to collect donations and relief materials.

About aid and relief supplies made available to Thailand, Mohammed Lutfee, second secretary at the Thai Embassy said “two planeloads of food materials, tents and medicines besides SR3.75 million in cash were sent by the Red Crescent Society to Thailand today.”

Meanwhile, the OPEC Fund for International Development has approved a humanitarian grant of SR4.5 million to aid Asia’s relief efforts, the fund’s office in Vienna announced.

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