Hannes Richter

Austria Pledges Aid to Tsunami Victims

Hannes Richter

While Austria has already donated more than 34 million US dollars in aid for victims of the tsunami disaster in Asia, the Austrian government has now pledged to increase its spending to approximately 66 million US dollars over three years.

Under the direction of Austrian Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, representatives from the government as well as other officials met together to coordinate help in the region of catastrophic flooding. Assistance will be spent on building schools and towns, supporting SOS Children's Villages, helping women, reconstructing health centers, protecting the environment, rebuilding infrastructure and purifying water.

As of January 19, 2005, Austria's death toll has risen to thirteen persons after DNA tests confirmed the identity of yet another tourist. Currently, 97 Austrians are officially listed as missing or are unaccounted for, following the December 26 disaster that killed more than 165,000 people in Asia (official toll). Most of the missing Austrians were on holiday in Thailand and Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck. Austria's Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik commented that the initial two weeks following the disaster was a fight against agonizing uncertainty as to the number of Austrians who lost their lives. "It plagues me not to be able to say to the family members the words so yearned for: They're alive," said Plassnik. On January 24, she met with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaska in Sri Lanka.

In coordinating Austrian aid, the time frame of the projects will soon be established. Among others, the federal provinces of Tyrol, Styria and Carinthia hope to build three children's villages in the region. Burgenland has committed itself to building a village in Sri Lanka and Vienna is investing in a school.