Death toll from disaster expected to reach 123,000

Originally Published: January 1, 2005
ESPN.com news services

NFL teams joined Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and other sports figures around the world in assisting the disaster relief mission for the tsunami-earthquake catastrophe with a death toll that is expected to reach 150,000.

Children in Philadelphia play around donated money that will be part of a tsunami relief fund.

The Baltimore Ravens collected $51,475 from fans at their game against the visiting Miami Dolphins on Sunday, with the team adding another $25,000. About 60 volunteers carried white contribution buckets at stadium entrances, and the American Red Cross said the money will be used for food, clothing, shelter, hygiene kits and mental health counseling.

"There were so many lives lost, so many homes," said fan Mike Gifford, who made a donation at the stadium. "It's one of the worst disasters ever, and we should help."

Volunteers also accepted donations at Sunday's game in Seattle between the Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons. The New York Giants, through the humanitarian aid group AmeriCares, planned to collect money before their game Sunday night against Dallas. The team partnered with that organization after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren's wife, Kathy, is a board member of the organization, which can be found online at www.redcross.org.

"You have all seen it on television and seen the devastation," Mike Holmgren said. "People are always asking, 'What can I do?' This is one of the things we can do. It is a wonderful organization, and rest assured all the funds go toward the right cause."

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunamis ravaged 3,000 miles of African and Asian coastline. The death toll has ridden steadily, and in an even more grave assessment, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland estimated the number of dead was approaching 150,000. By 8 p.m. ET Saturday, there was confirmation of at least 140,000 people killed in 11 countries.

"The vast majority of those are in Indonesia," he said Friday, adding that the final death toll would probably never be known. Remote Indian islanders were said to be facing starvation.

President Bush, his administration stung by criticism that its aid pledges were small and slow to materialize, raised the U.S. pledge from $35 million to $350 million. "Our contributions will continue to be revised as the full effects of this terrible tragedy become clearer," he said.

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, Wimbledon champion Sharapova beat four-time major winner Venus Williams in an exhibition match that began with a 30-second tribute to victims of the deadly waves. Nearly 5,000 are confirmed dead in Thailand.

After the match, held hundreds of miles from the country's battered beaches, the players auctioned their rackets for about $2,500 each.

The Chennai Open in India, among the ATP Tour season openers, will proceed despite several thousand dead along the coastline. Organizers believe canceling the event would hurt morale in the area. The ATP, the governing body of men's tennis, is contributing the $25,000 tournament fee to UNICEF's emergency relief fund.

"This is the fourth time I'm going to play here in Madras, but believe me it wasn't easy to come here this time," 1998 French Open champion Carlos Moya said. "A lot of feelings and emotions came into perspective."

The NBA's Charlotte Bobcats accepted donations from fans at Friday night's game against the Seattle SuperSonics, and the New Jersey Nets will donate a percentage of all tickets sold over the next two weeks to UNICEF.

The son of baseball great Roberto Clemente is sending money and 2 tons of supplies -- originally destined for Nicaragua to honor his late father's ill-fated humanitarian flight exactly 32 years ago -- to tsunami victims.

"My father always said, 'If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth,'" Roberto Clemente Jr. said in a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press from Puerto Rico.

Some of the biggest names in tennis are also assisting victims. Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt, the three top-ranked players, will auction autographed rackets, with the money going to UNICEF relief.

In other sports events aimed at disaster relief:

  • The American Red Cross collected donations at college football's Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl on Saturday.

  • Sri Lanka's national cricket team cut short a New Zealand tour and visited refugees Sunday. The team went to welfare centers and hospitals. About 28,500 people died in Sri Lanka.

  • Germany's four-man luge team donated the $2,150 in prize money for its victory in a World Cup event Saturday in Oberhof, Germany.

    Several hundred people on the Madras coast were among more than 9,000 people killed in India. Three players -- Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman, Germany's Rainer Schuettler and India's Mahesh Bhupathi -- have pledged prize money from the Chennai Open, where the champion collects $52,000.

    "We felt that we should do our bit for the victims in our own small way," Bjorkman said. "The horrific tragedy is impossible to fully comprehend or put into words."

    Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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