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U.K. Pledges $95 Million to Aid Asia

The British Government more than tripled its relief donation to victims of the Asian tidal wave Thursday, bringing its overall contribution to $95 million.

The Department for International Development said the government would add an extra 35 million pounds (US$67 million; euro49 million) to its already pledged 15 million pounds (US$29 million; euro21 million).

Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) has pledged that Britain is ready to help those hit "in any way we can."

Britons have donated 20 million pounds (US$38 million; euro28 million) to a tsunami disaster fund, a group of charities said Thursday, while leading English soccer clubs announced they would add 1 million pounds (US$1.9 million; euro1.4 million) to the relief effort.

"We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the British public," said Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which is in charge of the fund. The body includes leading charities Oxfam (search), ActionAid (search) and Christian Aid (search).

Britain's 20 Premier League soccer clubs also said they would each donate 50,000 pounds (US$96,000, euro70,000) to the relief fund.

"The Premier League and our clubs have strong connections throughout the region, and there was a real feeling among the clubs that we should do something as a collective to try and alleviate some of the pain and suffering," Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said.

Everton, sponsored by Thai brewer Chang, also has opened a separate fund.

England's cricketers donated 20,000 pounds (US$38,000, euro28,200), while fans following the team's tour of South Africa hoped to raise the same amount through a fund-raising party.

A spokeswoman for Blair's Downing Street office said that the amount pledged was only the first phase of the government's humanitarian effort.

She said the prime minister had no plans to end his family holiday in Egypt early in response to the disaster, and added that he spoke to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on Wednesday.

The Foreign Office, meanwhile, said 27 Britons have died in the earthquake-driven tidal waves, with 21 deaths occurring in Thailand, three in Sri Lanka and three in the Maldives.

Britain's ambassador to Thailand said hundreds more U.K. citizens may be missing, as Christmas is the peak season for visits to the southeast Asian country from Britain.

"We are talking, at the least, in the twenties of deaths, injured in the hundreds," Ambassador David Fall told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "Missing? It is very difficult to say — scores, though it may reach into the hundreds. There could have been thousands (of British people) in Phuket and other affected areas at the time."

The Foreign Office has chartered a British Airways jet to fly Britons home from Thailand. The airline said the 291-seat Boeing 747 would leave Bangkok on Saturday.