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Indian prime minister thanks Swiss as earthquake relief continues

Swiss rescue workers are active in the earthquake zone Keystone

The Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has thanked Swiss rescuers for the efforts following the country's devastating earthquake. Members of the Swiss Disaster Relief Unit were the first foreigners on the scene following the earthquake four days ago.

This content was published on January 29, 2001 - 20:30

Vajpayee met the rescuers, who have been working round the clock since their arrival, on Monday. They have so far pulled seven survivors from buildings destroyed by the tremor.

With the help of sniffer dogs, the team were able to locate and free two men trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building in the worst affected city of Ahmedabad. A woman and her 14-year-old son were rescued from the same spot earlier.

A spokesman for the government international development aid agency, Deza, said the Swiss team active in Bhuj, near the Pakistani border, had managed to free another three people.

A total of 10 bodies were recovered from the wreckage.

Forty-eight Swiss rescue workers, and nine specially trained dogs, flew in to the earthquake zone on Saturday as part of international relief efforts. They took with them 18 tonnes of aid supplies, including 5,300 blankets provided by the Swiss Red Cross.

The head of the Swiss team in India, Fred Lauener, said rescue efforts would continue as long as there was hope of finding survivors.

"Although the chances of survival fall with every passing hour, there are still people alive, and we will keep on pulling them out," Lauener said.

The Swiss Goodwill Chain has donated SFr250,000 ($151,500) for relief efforts in India and has launched a nationwide appeal for funds. Two other charities, Heks and Caritas have also released SFr100,000 and SFr200,000.

Indian officials fear around 15,000 people could have died in Friday's earthquake, which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.

swissinfo with agencies

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