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Swiss authorities content with tsunami response

Calmy-Rey said Switzerland had handled the disaster well

(swissinfo.ch)

Almost a year after the Asian tsumami disaster, the Swiss authorities have pronounced themselves satisfied with the official handling of the crisis.

Official says 107 Swiss were killed in the tidal wave and a further five are still missing. In all, 226,000 people were killed in the disaster.

Foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said Switzerland had overcome "one of the greatest catastrophes in human history" very well.

Speaking at a press conference in Bern, Calmy-Rey said the management of the disaster was an enormous challenge for the foreign ministry. She added that Switzerland had handled the crisis very well in comparison to other countries.

However, the foreign ministry learnt a few lessons from the aftermath of the tsunami. "We identified failings and weak points and have initiated several measures in the past year," she said.

For instance, a group of 25 crisis management experts has been established to provide back-up to Swiss diplomatic representatives abroad in the event of a disaster.

The team manning emergency telephone lines will also be increased from 40 to 80 people and they will have training in counselling.

Reconstruction

Overall, Switzerland will spend SFr35 million ($27 million) on tsunami-related work by the end of 2007. As well as emergency aid, Switzerland also set up several reconstruction projects.

These include the rebuilding of a fishing village in Thailand, the rebuilding of 13 schools in Sri Lanka and work on restoring the water supply in the province of Aceh in Indonesia.

Toni Frisch, head of the Humanitarian Aid Unit at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), told swissinfo he drew "a very positive assessment" of Switzerland's relief and reconstruction effort.

"We were on the spot very quickly. We have been working very efficiently from the beginning in five countries, and we are still involved in reconstruction and rehabilitation," Frisch commented.

"Some ten days after the tsunami we started reconstruction programmes, and that was very positive - not only to show solidarity but also to show that there is a future."

The tsunami claimed 112 Swiss victims, of whom 107 have been identified. Three days after the disaster, 24 identification specialists flew to Thailand to help identify bodies. Some of the team are still on the ground and will remain there until the end of February.

The bereaved families of the Swiss victims have been invited to a private commemoration ceremony at the Swiss parliament building on December 24.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The tsunami struck on December 26 last year after a seaquake of around 9 on the Richter scale, with an epicentre off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

It caused the deaths of 226,000 people and injured 125,000 others. There were 112 Swiss victims.
By the end of 2007, the Swiss government will spend SFr35 million on aid and reconstruction for tsunami victims.

Swiss Solidarity collected SFr 226 million from the Swiss population to help those affected by the natural disaster.

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