Switzerland remembers tsunami dead

Flags hung at half-mast in the capital, Bern Keystone

Switzerland paid its respects to all those who died in last week’s Asian tsunami disaster during a national day of mourning on Wednesday.

This content was published on January 5, 2005 - 16:57

Flags hung at half-mast and church bells rang in memory of the hundreds of thousands of people swept to their deaths by the tidal waves.

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

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

“We won’t give up. We will continue searching. We haven’t lost hope,” said Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey at an emotional news conference in the capital, Bern, on Wednesday.

Both ministers later attended a memorial service in Bern's cathedral, along with tsunami survivors and victims’ relatives.

Speaking at the multi-faith service attended by 1,200 people, Schmid urged the Swiss to “triumph over adversity”.

“Let us not be overwhelmed by grief, let us turn towards life,” he said.

But the Swiss president acknowledged that the loss would be harder to bear for those whose loved ones would never be found.

Silence for the dead

At midday 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 is broadcasting special programmes on Wednesday night for Swiss Solidarity, which works with local organisations in disaster-hit areas.

By early evening, the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation had collected a record SFr80 million ($68.5 million).

The Swiss government has so far 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 are estimated to have died in the disaster. Indonesia is the worst affected country with at least 90,000 deaths, followed by Sri Lanka with at least 30,000 dead.

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

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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