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. Japan sends navy, 40 million dollars to help tsunami victims
TOKYO (AFP) Dec 28, 2004
Japan on Tuesday sent three navy vessels to Thailand and pledged 40 million dollars to provide emergency food, medicine and shelter to victims of the tsunamis that ravaged the Indian Ocean coastline.

The relief mission on the coast of Thailand marks the first time officially pacifist Japan has used its own ships to find people in an overseas disaster.

Japanese troops have, however, travelled abroad to take part in relief missions in the past and navy vessels helped carry supplies to victims of a major quake in Turkey in 1999.

The two destroyers and one supply ship that were dispatched Tuesday had been on their way home after ending a mission in the Indian Ocean to provide logistical support to the US campaign in Afghanistan.

Japan, Asia's biggest economic power, has pledged 30 million dollars in direct aid to tsunami-hit countries.

"We are preparing to provide as much aid as possible as we are examining the damage in respective countries," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters.

Japan will give 1.5 million dollars to Indonesia for emergency food and medical supplies, 1.01 million dollars to Sri Lanka for power generators and tents and 510,000 dollars to Maldives for shelter and drinking water, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.

Machimura said Japan would also divert towards tsunami victims 2,400 tons of rice already pledged to the World Food Program.

Separately, a foreign ministry official said Japan would give one billion yen (9.7 million dollars) to Japanese non-governmental organizations to support humanitarian work in the affected region.

On Monday Japan sent a 20-member medical team to Sri Lanka and disaster surveillance experts to Indonesia.

The private sector in Japan, itself one of the world's most quake-prone nations, has also pitched in to help the tsunami victims.

Japan's most influential business umbrella group, Nippon Keidanren, headed by Toyota's chairman Hiroshi Okuda, and two other business groups set up a fund for disaster victims which aims to raise 300 million yen (2.9 million dollars).

The Japanese Red Cross Society had already announced a contribution of 100 million yen.

Nearly 28,000 people have died from the mammoth tidal waves set off by the powerful underwater quake Sunday off Indonesia.

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