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Princes William and Harry have been working as volunteers in a warehouse sending aid to tsunami victims. The brothers helped preparing and loading hygiene packs for the Red Cross at Warmley, South Gloucs, on Friday.

They are the first royals to take part in the relief effort and specifically asked to be physically involved after being moved to tears by TV coverage. Their request came after they made a donation to the Disaster Emergency Committee from their private money.

Prince William, 22, said: "We were watching a documentary about orphans. It brought tears to both our eyes. We were really upset about it. "You think how tragic it would be if that happened to you. It's truly desperate." William studied the effects of tsunamis while at university at St Andrews. "I didn't think I'd ever see a tsunami in my life. I've been learning about in geography." Prince Charles praises aid effort. He added that the response by the British public was "amazing".

Prince Harry, 20, said : "It's been far the worst thing I have ever seen. The size is abnormal. "We're not exempt from what everybody else does. We just wanted to be hands on. We didn't want to sit back."

The hygiene packs being prepared by Prince William and Prince Harry, and 24 other volunteers are being sent to the Maldives, where more than 12,500 people have been made homeless. At least 82 people died on the chain of islands, including three Britons, and 26 are missing. The 2,000 packs are due to be sent to the islands on Monday to try to prevent the spread of disease. Each one contains enough supplies to last a family of six up to eight weeks.

Sir Nicholas Young, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: "The Princes' time is a small but important part of the major logistics effort that swung into action on Boxing Day following the catastrophic quake and tsunami."

It was the first charity work the princes have carried out together. Last year Prince William took part in the Sport Relief fun run. Harry watched but was unable to participate due to an injured knee. Prince Charles is patron of the British Red Cross and visited its London headquarters last week to watch how the relief operation was being co-ordinated.