Swiss generosity reaches a new level

More than 50,000 people donated money during Wednesday's national fundraising day Keystone

The public has donated SFr114 million ($97 million) to the countries affected by the Asian disaster, surpassing previous records.

This content was published on January 5, 2005 - 19:59

Half the money was donated during a day of national mourning and fundraising on Wednesday.

On Wednesday alone, SFr62 million was raised by Swiss Solidarity - the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo's parent company.

"It's a huge show of solidarity. We never reckoned on achieving a sum like this," said Roland Jeanneret, head of communications at Swiss Solidarity.

"The whole country was mobilised to take part - rich, poor, young and old."

At a memorial service for victims of the tsunami on Wednesday, President Samuel Schmid urged the Swiss to “triumph over adversity”.

He said the Swiss people shared the grief of all those who had lost loved ones and offered his condolences to the families of the missing and the dead.

“Let us not be overwhelmed by grief, life must go on,” he said.

More than 1,200 people, including tsunami survivors and victims’ families, attended the service.

Death toll

So far 23 Swiss have been confirmed dead and 500 are still unaccounted for.

On Tuesday Schmid told the nation that the final death toll would run to several hundred.

At midday on Wednesday church bells rang out across the country to mark a Europe-wide silence for the dead. Flags hung at half-mast on federal buildings in the capital.

Swiss television broadcast special programmes during the evening for Swiss Solidarity, which works with local organisations in disaster-hit areas.

By Thursday morning the charity had collected a record SFr114 million - SFr62 million of it on Wednesday.

Aid effort

The Swiss government has pledged SFr27 million in aid and has sent 24 forensic specialists to Thailand to help identify victims of the tsunami.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has sent relief teams to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives.

Up to 150,000 people globally are estimated to have died in the disaster. Indonesia is the worst affected country with around 95,000 deaths, followed by Sri Lanka with at least 30,000 dead.

Around 10,000 tourists, mostly Europeans, lost their lives in the tidal waves.

The United Nations has said donations for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami are arriving faster than they can be recorded, pushing the amount pledged toward $4 billion.

“We are recording pledges of between three and four billion dollars which shows that indeed the world is coming together in a manner we have never ever seen before,” said Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Up to 150,000 people are believed to have died in the disaster.
The Swiss death toll is expected to run into the hundreds.
The government has pledged SFr27 million in aid.
Swiss relief teams have been dispatched across south Asia.

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In brief

The earthquake on December 26 off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra measured 9.0 on the Richter scale.

Tidal waves struck the coastlines of Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Maldives, Bangladesh and the east coast of Africa.

The death toll is estimated at up to 150,000, with more than 2 million people in need of aid.

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