Telethon raises $19.6m for hurricane victims

NEW YORK • A telethon to raise funds for victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma drew a flood of support on Tuesday, with contributions of at least US$14.55 million (S$19.6 million).

The event was helmed by top names in entertainment, with Stevie Wonder and Beyonce also urging attention on climate change.

Dubbed Hand In Hand, the one-hour telethon was broadcast live on all television networks in the United States, with megastars from George Clooney to Justin Bieber to Julianne Moore answering phones to take pledges.

After an hour of performances in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Antonio, comic Billy Crystal said the telethon had raised US$14.55 million, with more expected as calls came in.

Apple donated US$5 million - with co-host Stephen Colbert joking that it was the price of the company's new iPhone unveiled earlier on Tuesday - though it was not clear if the amount was part of the total raised.

Beyonce - in a video message - said "natural disasters don't discriminate, they don't see if you're an immigrant, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor".

No celebrities overtly attacked President Donald Trump, who has pulled the US out of the Paris accord on climate change, which experts said is contributing to worsening storms.

Actor Robert De Niro recalled a benefit concert 16 years ago after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, saying that such unifying events showed the "enduring values that truly define us as a people".

Musical highlights included a country-tinged cover of The Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends, led by Darius Rucker and Demi Lovato.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Telethon raises $19.6m for hurricane victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe