Britain pledges millions of pounds to aid Haiti

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The British government pledged millions of pounds (millions of U.S. dollars) to the aid operation in Haiti as British rescue workers are on their way to the country Thursday following the devastating earthquake that is believed to have killed tens of thousands of people.

British International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander announced a 6.2-million-pound package (9.92 million U.S. dollars) and said, "The really pressing requirement in the hours ahead is the capability that we will be offering -- that ability to offer cutting equipment and lifting equipment to get people out from the buildings that have collapsed around them."

The British government said the rescue team arrived in the neighboring Dominican Republic this morning and will travel to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince today.

The Disasters Emergency Committee is set to launch a television appeal tomorrow and is already taking donations through a special phoneline and its website while ShelterBox, the Britain-based international disaster relief charity, said it was sending 700 boxes containing a tent, stove and blankets to the area.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday sent a message of sympathy to Haiti's President Rene Garcia Preval.

Speaking in the Commons, Brown said Haiti has moved to the center of the world's thoughts and the world's compassion. The British government will respond with emergency aid, including firefighters, emergency equipment and finance, and give further support to help the people of Haiti to recover from that devastating event.

The earthquake, which measured 7.3 on the Richter scale, hit the country on Tuesday toppling hundreds of buildings. Its epicenter was within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the center of Port-au-Prince, which is home to about one million people.

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