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Record number of donations for flood appeal

The devastation of Gondo has evoked huge public sympathy

(Keystone)

A record number of donations, close to SFr 22 million, were raised on Friday to help the flood-stricken communities of Switzerland and Italy. Meanwhile, families and friends of the victims have begun burying their loved ones.

In 18 and a half hours, in which over a hundred telephones lines were open, the previous record for such a Solidarity Chain was broken. In 1993, SFr20 million were collected for the victims of the Brig catastrophe.

The lines were open until midnight on Friday.

Swiss solidarity was initiated as a national collection day for the victims of floods and mudslides in canton Valais, Ticino and parts of northern Italy.

Felix Bollmann, who's in charge of the Solidarity Chain, told swissinfo: "Most of the money has come from individuals. However, about a third has come from businesses and local authorities".

Bollmann explained how the money would be put to use: "We are focusing on two phases - one for emergency relief for people in need of immediate help - and the second phase is the reconstruction stage which will go on for another two years. This will take the vast majority of the money".

The appeal kicked off on Friday, after the president, Adolf Ogi, called on the country to support the victims of last weekend's floods, which devastated parts of canton Valais, and submerged towns and villages around Lake Maggiore in canton Ticino.

Swiss business responded early to the appeal, with the country's biggest bank, UBS, and the automobile importer, AMAG, each pledging SFr1 million. Swiss Post said it would match all contributions by its employees.

Money also came from Singapore, the Vatican and Kosovo.

People wishing to add to Friday's donations can do so by postal cheque addressed to the bank account number 10-15 000-6, using "Unwetter Schweiz" as the paying in purpose.

So far 12 bodies have been found across canton Valais. The worst hit place was the village of Gondo on the Italian border. A third of the village was wiped out by mudslides; ten people are confirmed dead and three are still missing.

Meanwhile, the families and friends of the victims have begun burying their loved ones. A 33-year-old man was buried on Saturday in the Valais village of Simplon while the 70-year-old woman, who was found last weekend in Neubrück, has been buried in Stalden.

Funeral services were held yesterday in the Valley of Goms for a 43-year-old woman who was killed in Gondo while another victim from the village has been buried in the town of Biel in canton Valais.

The remaining 130 residents of Gondo, who are staying in nearby Simplon Dorf and Domodossola in Italy, have been given the green light to return to those homes that were not destroyed by the floods and mudslides. According to cantonal officials, there is no more risk of further landslides.

"In Gondo, no more ground movement has been detected and the amount of water in the soil has gone back to normal levels," Jean-Daniel Rouiller, a cantonal geologist said.

swissinfo with agencies


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