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Switzerland sends aid to Beslan victims

Families in Beslan have been burying their dead

(Keystone)

The Swiss government is to fund a number of aid projects to help the victims of last week’s hostage tragedy in the North Ossetian town of Beslan.

More than 320 people died and hundreds were injured when a siege at a school ended in bloodshed.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said on Friday that it was releasing SFr300,000 ($239,000).

It follows a request for assistance from two Swiss surgeons who have been working since Wednesday in hospitals in Beslan.

The cash will be used to buy urgently needed medical and surgical equipment, and to finance three projects in the town.

“The problem is that surgical equipment dates back to the 1960s,” said Dieter Dreier, the SDC’s bureau chief in North Ossetia.

Medical equipment

The SDC has begun buying surgical instruments, masks and gowns, lamps as well as plastic body bags.

The North Ossetia bureau is already supplying around 300 meals a day to patients in the region’s four hospitals.

The money will also be used to set up a rehabilitation centre in Beslan for the adults and children who survived the siege.

Until it is built, Switzerland has agreed to finance a temporary structure and pay for the services of a local psychologist for 18 months.

A second project is designed to ensure that those who have undergone operations can receive physiotherapy in Beslan.

“There are centres in Vladikavkaz, but the town is 22km from Beslan, and not everyone can travel there once or twice a day,” said Dreier.

In addition, Zurich University is setting up an information and skills exchange programme with its Vladikavkaz counterpart.

Gunbattle

In addition to the civilian casualties, at least ten Russian commandos and 30 Chechen militants died in last Friday’s bloodbath.

The three-day siege ended when Russian special forces stormed the school following a series of explosions inside the complex.

On Wednesday the Russian government, which has come under fire for its handling of the hostage crisis, announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Chechen rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Friday to the creation of a parliamentary investigative commission into the tragedy.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Two Swiss surgeons have been working in hospitals in Beslan since Wednesday.
They were due to return to Switzerland on Saturday.
The SFr300,000 ($239,000) in aid announced on Friday will be used to buy medical and surgical equipment as well as help fund three projects in the town.

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