German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Monday pledged long-term reconstruction aid to the southeast Asian countries devasted by tidal waves that have claimed the lives of more than 24,000 people.
Counting the dead in Indonesia
Fischer said that in addition to €1 million ($1.35 million) in emergency assistance Germany had already promised, Berlin would provide continued help to the stricken nations.
"If you consider the scope of the damage and know how much some of the affected countries are dependent on tourism in their economic development, and when you see the numbers of victims that have already been confirmed today and know that countries were affected that are anything but economically strong, then we will in my opinion have no alternative but to offer long-term help," he told reporters. "We are prepared to shoulder our part."
Fischer (right) and his Sri Lankan counterpart, Lakshman Kadirgamar in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo in July
Fischer (photo) said he could not confirm reports by Sri Lankan tourism officials and the German travel agents' association that four German nationals had been killed in the south of the island nation, which suffered the heaviest losses from tidal waves that swept through Asia.
He said German diplomats in the affected regions were in constant contact with local authorities and tour companies but that it would likely take days before the full scale of the tragedy could be measured.
A common European consular office was being set up in southern Sri Lanka to help cope with the crisis, Fischer said and added that he had spoken with his Thai counterpart, Surakiart Sathirathai, and planned to call other leaders in the region to express his sympathies and offer German assistance.
"It has filled us with shock and deep sadness," he said.
Hundreds of tourists believed dead
With the magnitude of the disaster becoming more evident by the hour, travelers -- from backpackers to the well-heeled -- were abandoning their holidays in the sun for dryer and safer shores after the quake and tsunamis led to the death of more than 24,000 people. Hundreds or even thousands of the dead are believed to be foreign holidaymakers, including one-third of Thailand's 461 known dead.
Thai soldiers sit in front of empty coffins to be transported to Phuket at Bangkok military airport on Monday
Travel agencies and government officials in various European capitals said up to 10,000 British tourists may have been affected, over 8,000 Germans, more than 5,000 Italians, up to 5,000 French, more than 2,500 Swiss, some 2,000 Poles, over 1,000 Belgians and a similar number of Greeks.
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