The Disaster Emergency Committee, comprising 15 relief agencies, said it was already funding pounds 5m of relief programmes from existing resources.
But the sheer scale of Hurricane Mitch, the worst natural calamity to hit the region this century, was beyond the agencies' ability to cope. Funds raised by The Independent appeal launched last week are being sent directly to the Disaster Emergency Committee.
Julian Filochowski of the Catholic agency, Cafod, who was in the region when the hurricane struck, said 2 million people in Honduras alone - about a third of the population - had been made homeless and 70 per cent of its infrastructure had been destroyed. The hardest hit have been the poorest in shanty towns near rivers and the coast with the subsistence agriculture off which they lived washed away in the mud.
"We're saying, 'Give as much as you can, as fast as you can'," said Mike Whitlam, head of the British Red Cross. "And then we must keep the momentum going for weeks, right through into reconstruction."