Army wraps up tsunami mission on Sumatra

Swiss airforce helicopters airlifted emergency supplies in Aceh province Keystone

Switzerland’s armed forces have officially ended their aid operation in Indonesia’s Aceh province which was devastated by a tidal wave last December.

This content was published on March 12, 2005 - 11:18

Swiss army helicopters transported 368 tons of material and more than 2,200 people during their six-week mission in the region.

The last 29 military personnel returned to Switzerland on Saturday after having completed their United Nations-led relief operation in Indonesia.

They were welcomed by senior army and air force officials who thanked them for their work.

A total of 119 unarmed soldiers and army personnel as well as three transport helicopters had taken part in the Swiss operation which was launched in mid-January.

The deployment consisted of pilots, ground and security staff as well as logistics experts.

The defence ministry said the Swiss helicopters airlifted 368 tons of emergency supplies and 2,267 refugees, homeless people and experts during its mission on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Still in the field

Humanitarian aid efforts are continuing in the tsunami-hit region with 23 employees of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) still in the field in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Projects are underway to rebuild schools and other buildings in Sri Lanka, and to restore the water supply in Aceh province.

Switzerland is also funding a project aimed at reconstructing three fishing villages in southern Thailand.

The Swiss authorities are planning to extend to Sri Lanka and Aceh province a cash-for-shelter programme for local families who take in homeless tsunami victims.

The Swiss government has contributed SFr27 million ($23 million) as part of its emergency aid package. Swiss Solidarity, which acts as a fundraising arm for charities, collected a record SFr218 million in donations.

The UN estimates that about 300,000 people died in the underwater earthquake which devastated the coastlines of southeast Asia and also hit countries in east Africa last December.

According to the Swiss foreign ministry, at least 39 Swiss citizens were among the victims, with 87 people still missing ten weeks after the disaster struck.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

A total of 119 army personnel took part in the six-week relief mission on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Switzerland provided three army transport helicopters to support the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the tsunami-hit region.
An estimated 300,000 have been killed and two million made homeless by the tidal waves.

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