France ships aid to Indian Ocean
PARIS, Jan 2 (AFP) - France will donate EUR 45 million (USD 61 million) toward disaster relief in the Indian Ocean, in addition to money donated privately by individuals, companies and organizations, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Sunday.
The government said it was adding a specific contribution of EUR 3 million to help provide clean drinking water in the countries hit by last week’s tsunamis, in which more than 127,000 people are known to have died.
Barnier said 22 French citizens were known to have been killed and about 100 were missing, but “there are still several hundred French people of whom we have no news.”
Barnier said five flights were to take off on Sunday with relief supplies and water purification equipment for Sri Lanka. In addition a field hospital, which will have a staff of 72, was dispatched to Indonesia Sunday along with 24 tons of relief supplies for Sumatra. Five tons of aid was also sent to the Maldives.
France is spearheading European relief efforts in southern Asia, where aid workers were racing to reach those in need of food and clean drinking water, and to bury the dead in a bid to stave off the spread of disease.
France was also sending the helicopter carrier Jeanne d’Arc and the frigate Georges Leygues to Asia, carrying medical teams, five helicopters and an operating theater, Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said.
“The urgency is to avoid a health disaster,” she said.
Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy announced he would head to Sri Lanka to accompany a convoy carrying tonnes of aid, including six tons of antibiotics and anti-diarrhoea treatments donated by Sanofi-Aventis, the French pharmaceuticals giant.
After a French transport plane flew to Thailand with 48 coffins, the repatriation of some of the French dead was expected in the coming days at Paris’ Orly airport, where a chapel of rest has been set up, airport sources said.
Estimates of the likely number of French dead varied, with deputy Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier saying Sunday that the total could exceed 150.
President Jacques Chirac was scheduled to start his round of New Year greetings on Monday with one-minute of silence at the Elysee palace in “solemn homage to all the victims of the catastrophe,” his press office announced.
Unlike in Britain, where figures are collated by a centralized Disasters Emergency Committee, there was no overall tally of the amount of aid given privately by French citizens. But a check with several non-government organizations by AFP indicated that the giving has been generous.
The French Red Cross alone said it had received some EUR 7 million while Doctors Without Borders tallied about EUR 3 million in donations.
Subject: French News