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Swiss step up aid for quake victims

Swiss aid is loaded onto a cargo plane at Zurich airport

(Keystone)

Switzerland increased its aid for earthquake victims in Pakistan and India on Tuesday by SFr1.6 million ($1.24 million) to around SFr2.6 million.

The extra funds will be primarily used for purchases in the field. Money will also go towards a helicopter for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)

Switzerland has given SFr640,000 of the funding to the WFP to hire a helicopter to carry aid and materials to remote areas of the affected region, said Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) spokesman Jean-Philippe Jutzi.

He added that the 20 Swiss experts who are already in the area would also receive extra money to help with medication, food and fresh water needs.

The Himalayan region was devastated on Saturday after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck. On Tuesday, the Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said 23,000 people had died in the country, while estimates put the number of Indian dead at up to 1,300.

More than a million people need "acute assistance" in the quake zone, according to the UN.

The extra Swiss funding comes on top of the SFr1 million that the government earmarked for the region at the weekend.

A cargo plane carrying a further 40 tonnes of material – tents, cooking sets, blankets and medical kits - is due to leave Zurich airport on Tuesday evening. Three logistics experts are also on board, who will help with the transfer of the aid, said Jutzi.

Toni Frisch, head of humanitarian aid at the SDC, is also expected to fly to the area on Wednesday. He and other Swiss aid officials will meet the Pakistani authorities, UN agencies and tour the affected sites.

Response

Swiss non-governmental organisations and charities have also continued to respond to the catastrophe.

Several partners of Swiss Solidarity, the fundraising arm of the swissinfo's parent company, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, are stepping up aid efforts.

The Swiss Red Cross is taking part in the 40 tonnes of aid sent by the Swiss government, said Swiss Solidarity in a statement.

Catholic charity Caritas Switzerland is cooperating with the local Caritas group, running a health post and distributing medicine and the protestant charity, Heks, is providing tents, food and medicine in the disaster region. Other projects are also underway.

Meanwhile, the UN has launched an emergency appeal for $272 million to help victims.

The appeal aims to cover priority needs for the next six months, including winter shelter equipment, food, medicines and transport.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit Pakistan and parts of India and Afghanistan on Saturday.
Estimates put the death toll in Pakistan as high as between 30,000 and 40,000. Officially it is 23,000. In India it is up to 1,300.
On Tuesday evening another earthquake of 5.1 in magnitude hit the southwestern part of Pakistan causing panic but no victims.
The UN has launched an appeal for $272 millions over six months.

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In brief

Swiss Solidarity has launched an appeal to help victims of both the Kashmir earthquake and Hurricane Stan in Central America.

The postal account number for donations is 10-15000-6, with mention of "Earthquake Kashmir" or "Hurricane Central America".

Swiss Solidarity is the fund-raising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

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