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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 19:07 GMT
UK ready to aid Mozambique

Mozambique floods
More helicopters are needed urgently in Mozambique

The UK Government is prepared to provide more money to help relief efforts in flood-stricken Mozambique - but lack of cash is not the problem in the disaster zone, International Development Secretary Clare Short has told MPs.

This is the worst disaster Mozambique has had in 50 years. We will do all we can, but it is going to get worse before it gets better
Clare Short
Ms Short said the government had already provided 2.2m to the relief effort and "stood ready" to provide more aid.

But she said the key issue was finding more helicopters and other equipment to help rescue people from the floods.

In an emergency statement in the House of Commons, Ms Short said: "It is an organisational problem rather than a financial problem.

Hunt for helicopters

"At the moment, money to spend is not the problem, it is deploying on the ground to save people's lives.

"We are hunting for helicopters and we can pay for them. As we speak my officials are hunting all around to try to get more in."

Clare Short Clare Short: "Money is not the problem"
She said nine helicopters were currently being utilised in the disaster area, but only three had winch capacity.

The helicopters are working across a huge area where tens of thousands of people are at risk as flood waters rise.

And rescue workers are predicting that the worst is still yet to come, with new flooding due to arrive in Mozambique as heavy rain from Zimbabwe and South Africa flows down the rivers and pours into the flood plain covering much of the southern part of the country.

'Will do all we can'

Ms Short said she had spoken to Ministry of Defence officials to see if the UK could provide more equipment, but had been told that none was currently near enough the disaster area.

She went on: "This is the worst disaster Mozambique has had in 50 years. We will do all we can, but it is going to get worse before it gets better."

Ms Short said the efficiency of the United Nations to deal with crises such as that in Mozambique was "wanting".

She said it was "ponderous and bureaucratic" while it needed to be "more efficient and speedy".

The government announced on Monday that it was providing a further 500,000 towards the relief effort in Mozambique.

Task force

The cash, to be distributed through charities Oxfam and Save the Children, is part of the 2.2m British aid for the southern African state.

Liberal Democrat international development spokeswoman Jenny Tonge said a UN rapid reaction task force should be set up to provide a more coordinated response.

Conservative foreign affairs spokeswoman Cheryl Gillan said: "I don't think anybody can fail to have been moved by the television pictures we are currently seeing.

"Our sympathies go to the victims and the families and our support to the voluntary workers trying desperately to save lives as we speak."

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See also:
28 Feb 00 |  Africa
Flood rescuers race against time
28 Feb 00 |  Africa
The floods: A regional disaster
24 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mozambique: How disaster unfolded
28 Feb 00 |  Africa
In pictures: Mozambique under water
27 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mugabe slammed over flood effort
25 Feb 00 |  Africa
A sad journey back home
27 Feb 00 |  Africa
Eyewitness: Flying over the flood
24 Feb 00 |  Africa
Machel backs Mozambique appeal

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