Swiss fund reconstruction of Thai village
Switzerland is to give $2 million (SFr2.29 million) to help rebuild a village in Thailand which was devastated by last week’s tidal waves.
The announcement was made on Monday by Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who was in the Thai capital, Bangkok, as part of her tour of areas affected by the disaster.
Walter Fust, head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, who is accompanying Calmy-Rey, told swissinfo that the money would go to a village in the southern region of Phuket, one of the most devastated areas.
“The village will be identified within the next five days, but a Swiss team is already on the spot,” he said on Monday morning shortly before boarding a plane to Sri Lanka with the foreign minister.
“The gesture is to express solidarity and thanks to the authorities and people of Thailand… and also to commemorate Swiss victims of the tragedy,” added Fust.
Calmy-Rey made the announcement after meeting the Thai deputy minister of foreign affairs, Sorajak Kasemsuvan.
The funds are part of a SFr27 million Swiss aid package for countries affected by last week’s tidal waves in southeast Asia.
Calmy-Rey arrived in Thailand on Saturday for a first-hand look at the situation.
On Monday she visited a Swiss in hospital and spoke to those who had survived the floods.
According to the Swiss foreign ministry, almost 2,500 foreign tourists died in Thailand. The total death toll for the country is at least 5,000.
Death toll rises
The foreign ministry announced on Monday that the number of Swiss who died in the disaster had risen to 23.
A further 105 people are presumed dead and around 400 are still missing. Most of these are in Thailand.
In Bangkok, Calmy-Rey was visibly moved by the suffering she witnessed.
“In Switzerland, we only see numbers,” she told Swiss television. “Here we really see what people are going through.”
Calmy-Rey has now flown to Sri Lanka, one of the countries worst affected by the disaster. She is due to meet Swiss foreign ministry representatives before returning to Bern on Wednesday.
Back in Switzerland, Swiss Solidarity – the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – confirmed on Tuesday that it had received a total of SFr44.5 million in donations.
It said the money had come from the public as well as companies, towns and cities and associations. The charity added that it expected more funds to come in during the week.
On Wednesday, Switzerland and the European Union are to hold a day of solidarity for tidal-wave victims.
swissinfo with agencies
The tsunami was triggered by an undersea eathquake near Indonesia on December 26.
2,459 tourists died in Thailand, a further 7,000 are still missing.
At least 23 Swiss died, and Bern says at least 105 Swiss are presumed dead.
Another 400 Swiss are officially missing.
The quake is known to have killed at least 140,000 in the Asia region.
The foreign ministry has advised relatives of the missing to wait in Switzerland for news, rather than travel to Asia.
Of the 500 Swiss still missing, 360 are in Thailand. Others are missing in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and in India.
Some positive responses to the search have been registered, said the foreign ministry, but names are also being added to the list of the missing.
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