West is urged to waive debt

RICH NATIONS should consider writing off the debt of Central American nations devastated by Hurricane Mitch, Emma Bonino, Europe's Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, said yesterday.

Her intervention contrasted with comments by Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, who has already rejected the notion.

The commissioner said the question of debt relief was the responsibility of member-states and may be raised at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. Campaign groups have called for immediate cancellation of all debts owed by these countries, warning that otherwise they will not be able to handle the emergency.

But Ms Short said yesterday that such arguments were "misleading". The minister agreed there was a serious case for debt relief for some poor countries, but added: "In the middle of a disaster it's an irrelevance."

Britain said that it had sent two more Royal Navy ships to help the humanitarian relief operations. The ships, which are in addition to the pounds 750,000 in aid already pledged by the Government, will arrive within days. HMS Sheffield, which has been helping with rescue work and this week saved one villager washed out to sea, will remain in the region, the Ministry of Defence said.

In Honduras, which has borne the brunt of the destruction, the government announced yesterday that all schools and colleges will be closed well into next year.

Hundreds of schools and colleges were destroyed, or are under water or mud after the storm rampaged through this Central American nation last week.

Those education centres that survived are now providing shelter for hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes.

The unidentified bodies were wrapped in black plastic rubbish bags and buried in deep graves, five bodies in each.

As the death-toll climbs towards 11,000, with another 13,000 missing across parts of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, Hurricane Mitch has become the most destructive Atlantic storm in more than 200 years - since the Great Hurricane of 1780, which killed 20,000 people in the eastern Caribbean.

Even as rescue workers found new bodies in the mud, the region faced threats of cholera from a lack of drinking water, and of malaria and dengue epidemics as mosquitoes multiplied in stagnant ponds, hunger as food ran out, and land-mines from former civil wars brought back to the surface by flooding.

The Nicaraguan President, Arnoldo Aleman, made an impassioned plea for medicines.

The US President, Bill Clinton, has requested a "global relief effort" and has issued orders boosting US emergency aid to $70m (pounds 42m). The President is dispatching a delegation next week led by Tipper Gore, wife of Vice- President Al Gore, to deliver some of the supplies destined for Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

'Independent' appeal, Review Front

Leading article, Review page 3

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn