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British reaction.

More than a week after the tsunami disaster struck perhaps we may be excused a little parochialism and the time to examine the UK's involvement in the tragedy.

In round figures at the moment it is expected that the British death toll may be around 200, about a quarter of the number of missing Swedes and a fraction only of a total now tentatively put at 150,000 and rising - even before any disease kicks in, which in the United Nations' words is likely to double the deaths.

We have escaped very lightly, as we always do from the very worst of Nature's disasters and we are grateful.

The British reaction indeed has been that of most other nations. In the global village as in the Yorkshire one, the instinct is strong to rally round in moments of disaster.

What can be said, with pride, is that the British public and the British government have come through this crisis with credit.

Tragedy struck when we were least prepared for it on December 26 in the middle of the Christmas holiday. Perhaps the fact that most people were off work ensured that the public reaction was in advance of the Government's.

Perhaps the man in the street has more heart anyway than the Whitehall machine.

Whatever, at the moment the public has raised a magnificent pounds 60m and the Government - through Foreign Secretary Jack Straw - is now hinting strongly that it's pounds 50m contribution will match the public generosity.

This is good news made much better by Chancellor Gordon Brown's move to use our presidency of the wealthy G8 nations to defer the debt payments of countries afflicted by the tragedy.

For, make no mistake, countries like Indonesia have the manpower, countries like India have the wherewithal, but money will be needed now, next week, next month, next year, next decade to put this situation to rights.

Throughout all this, Prime Minister Tony Blair has been on holiday in Egypt and political opponents have suggested he should have come home.

Maybe voters - especially those with Asian links - would have been impressed. But we are assured he has been in touch and the premier will need his strength for the weeks ahead.

No, Britain has done its bit and the three-minute silence throughout the country tomorrow should be taken as a token of a continuing commitment.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 4, 2005
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