Vienna, 24 June 2005 - "On 26 December 2004, a disastrous flood wave brought tremendous grief to all parts of the world and caused enormous material damage. Yet, the horrors of the tsunami disaster have also made us all move closer together: the extensive helpfulness in the form of donations or personal relief efforts is an impressive sign of lived solidarity with our far-away neighbours. The certainty that there is this strong solidarity across all continents is very encouraging," Plassnik said.
"By now it has become a sad certainty that Austria mourns 75 victims and 15 Austrians are still missing. We are deeply moved by the fate of every single person. Our sympathies are with the families and friends who had to bid their last farewell to their loved ones", said the Foreign Minister.
"Mourning and hope go hand in hand. In the meantime, the reconstruction measures are well underway, although there exist obstacles in the countries concerned which are sometimes difficult to overcome. The Austrian relief organisations and numerous private individuals and associations are working tirelessly in the affected regions", the Foreign Minister emphasised and thanked everybody who worked with great commitment to assist the reconstruction efforts in South-East Asia.
Her special thanks also go to Dr. Ernst Strasser, the co-ordinator of the Austrian tsunami relief efforts. He informed the Foreign Minister about his journeys into the affected regions, where he could convince himself of the progress made by the Austrian projects. A second interim report submitted by Strasser documents the Austrian efforts. The report is available at www.bundeskanzleramt.at.
"In view of the experiences we gained in connection with the tsunami disaster, we made intensive efforts in the last few months to strengthen our capacities to provide swift and unbureaucratic aid in crisis situations. With regard to human resources, we also ensured the setting-up of consular task forces for specific emergencies which are available at short notice", Plassnik said.
Plassnik also mentioned the "Relief Fund for Disasters Abroad" established by the Federal Government, which can be used to make available up to 100 million euros per year.
Regarding the state of implementation of the relief funds promised by the Federal Government for reconstruction purposes, Plassnik drew a positive balance sheet. "The Federal Government has made available 34 million euros for aid measures. 14.034 million euros thereof are being implemented through the individual ministries and their partners and are flowing into specific projects in the affected regions. The next steps for stage 2 will be taken on the basis of exact evaluations", Plassnik said.