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Business

German Firms Heeding Call for Donations

German economic and industrial associations are calling on their members, particularly those companies which are active in southern Asia, to donate money to help the victims of the tsunami disaster.

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German and Taiwanese rescue workers deliver supplies in Phuket

German companies are answering the call to send donations and other forms of aid to the economically important south Asia region. German companies employ around 200,000 staff members in the affected countries, while investments in the region total around €6 billion ($8 billion).

Among the German companies each pledging €1 million on Wednesday were Deutsche Telekom, DaimlerChrysler, and the financial consultancy Deutsche Vermögensberatung.

The country's main economic associations -- led by the German Asia Pacific Committee -- issued the call for donations in collaboration with the business daily, Handelsblatt. The head of the committee, Siemens CEO Heinrich von Pierer, said it was "only natural that we help our partner countries during this emergency."

"Immediate, unbureaucratic aid"

"Siemens has been very active in this region for many years, and Dr. von Pierer's appeal was for immediate, unbureaucratic aid," Siemens spokesman Georg Haux said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "Siemens is organizing help through its subsidiaries in the affected region. There are already hundreds of Siemens employees at work, rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, getting telephone and power lines working again, and making sure medical equipment is getting to the hospitals that need it."

Deutsche Telekom has chosen to give its €1 million to the aid organization Deutschland Hilft, company spokesman Hans Ehnert told Deutsche Welle.

Krisenreaktionszentrum Außenamt in Berlin

Employees of Germany's Foreign Ministry coordinate aid in the crisis center of the German Foreign Ministry

"We're transferring the money to Deutschland Hilft, which is an umbrella organization for several aid organizations that have a lot of experience helping in international catastrophes," he said. "We're in touch with our offices in the region, for example, our office in Bangkok, so we can hear from people who are there, how things are looking, and where more concrete help is needed."

Clothing chain C&A donated €250,000 to the children's aid organization terre des hommes.

"Terre des hommes is carrying out first aid in the region, they've already built up emergency shelters for 35,000 people, most of them children," said C&A spokesman Knut Brüggemann.

Frustration growing

Other German firms, including Deutsche Post, Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa, and pharmaceutical concerns such as Merck and Schering are organizing aid to the tsunami-hit areas, though aid workers in the region face a difficult battle.

Relief organizations, braced for the one of the biggest humanitarian exercises in history, said needs were even greater than at first thought.

The United Nations admitted that only a fraction of the aid has yet got to where it is most needed. "We are doing very little at the moment," said UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland. "It will take maybe 48 to 72 hours more to be able to respond to the tens of thousands of people who would like to have assistance today -- or yesterday, rather. I believe the frustration will be growing in the days and weeks ahead."

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