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Calmy-Rey takes stock of tidal disaster

Calmy-Rey gives encouragement to two Swiss at a hospital in Phuket Keystone

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has expressed shock at the situation in Thailand, one of the countries affected by last Sunday’s tidal tragedy.

Calmy-Rey flew to the country on Saturday for a first-hand look at the situation and to visit Swiss who have been affected by the disaster.

The Swiss foreign ministry in Bern said on Sunday it now feared that 111 Swiss citizens had lost their lives, although the number of confirmed dead remains at 16.

The number of missing Swiss has increased from 85 to 95. There is no news about the fate of around 500 others.

Eighty-five injured Swiss have been repatriated from Thailand and Sri Lanka since Wednesday, according to the Swiss Air Rescue Service (Rega).

Ivo Sieber, head of information at the foreign ministry, said that Calmy-Rey had met staff from the Swiss embassy in the region of Phuket, as well as humanitarian workers, experts and volunteers.

Giving support

Sieber added that one of Calmy-Rey’s aims in travelling to the region was to give support and encouragement to survivors.

Calmy-Rey flew to Thailand with a delegation of five others, including Walter Fust, head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Some Swiss have criticised their country’s embassy in Bangkok for its handling of the crisis situation.

Calmy-Rey told the “NZZ am Sonntag” newspaper that she regretted the criticism but could understand the concerns of those affected and their relatives.

She added that embassy staff were doing the best they could. “Our people are working round the clock and are doing a great job.”

Arduous task

During her trip, Calmy-Rey visited a hospital where injured Swiss are being treated and talked to Swiss forensic experts who have begun the arduous task of trying to identify bodies.

She also met the Thai interior minister and the governors of the provinces of Phuket and Krabi.

During her talks, Calmy-Rey said she was impressed by how the Thai government and regional authorities, as well as the Thai people themselves, were doing extraordinary work at all levels.

She added that bilateral and multilateral cooperation was functioning well.

Calmy-Rey later flew on to Bangkok, where she is due to meet the Thai deputy foreign minister on Monday.

She is also scheduled to visit the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, where she will assess the need for urgent supplies.

swissinfo with agencies

The undersea quake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on December 26 measured nine on the Richter scale.
The total number of dead on Sunday evening was at least 130,000 in about a dozen countries. Worst affected are Indonesia (at least 80,000), Sri Lanka (30,000), India (15,000) and Thailand (5,000).
The number of confirmed Swiss dead is 16 but the foreign ministry in Bern says there is little hope for 95 other Swiss missing.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR