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Lottie

Blair to Make Tsunami Statement

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Prime Minister Tony Blair is to make a statement to the Commons on the Asian tsunami, including an update on the British death toll.

His statement to MPs will also include details of the UK's contribution to the relief effort so far.

So far 50 Britons have died with 391 more likely to have died. The total death toll stands at more than 150,000.

The Prime Minster earlier came under fire for not cutting short his holiday to deal with the crisis.

Labour backbenchers, returning from their Christmas break on Monday, will be addressed by Mr Blair in the evening.

On Sunday, Mr Blair said on Breakfast with Frost: "Since [Foreign Secretary] Jack Straw gave those figures a couple of days ago they haven't moved a great deal, which should give us some hope that we are beginning to reach the peak of the numbers. But we just can't be sure.

Difficult job

"It is just an immensely difficult job to get absolutely accurate figures, all countries are struggling with this."

Downing Street hopes Mr Blair's statement on the tsunami will underline how active the government has been in the relief effort, and in helping British victims and the bereaved.

The Foreign Office has been criticised by some relatives of those missing as being slow to offer support.

The relatives of missing Samantha Fayet told the BBC their cousin searching in Thailand had to fill out the same form 10 times.

"We are so upset that there has been no support from the British government," said Mrs Fayet's aunt, Christine Mackenzie, in London.

"They only gave her cups of tea and sent her from place to place."

She said other British people had advised the family to seek help from the Australian embassy, and also described the Swedish officials as "switched on".

Aid flights

More aid flights carrying water and equipment vital to the relief effort will be sent from the UK this week.

A plane chartered by the Department for International Development (DFID) will take sanitation equipment and 27 tonnes of water, given by Oxfam, to Medan in Indonesia.

The flight is scheduled to take off from East Midlands airport at 1200 GMT with 393 packages of water filtration equipment destined for Banda Aceh.

Oxfam's Ruth Stockdale said that while bottled water was crucial in the short term, setting up a clean water supply by de-contaminating wells was essential.

It is one of four flights due to leave from Nottingham East Midlands airport on Monday, including tents and building materials arranged by Save the Children.

The Royal Navy is considering deploying an aircraft carrier and two frigates from Portsmouth to the Indian Ocean to help with the tsunami aftermath.

The fleet is due to leave for Oman on Monday, but the Ministry of Defence is considering whether to divert them. A decision is due some time this week.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirjuda will meet Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London on Monday, to discuss the disaster.

Source

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