Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Closure of Gibraltar Red Cross Tsunami Appeal Fund

by Alice Mascarenhas

• Over £520,000 raised locally since December

The Gibraltar Branch of the British Red Cross is set to close the Gibraltar South East Asia Tsunami Appeal Fund.

Yesterday the account at Barclays Bank was boosted by a further £4000, and will only remain open until tomorrow.

Since late December Gibraltar has raised nearly £520,000. Eddie Davis, Treasurer, of the Gibraltar Red Cross yesterday collected a further two cheques.

One cheque was for £2,635 and was raised by the Gibraltar Fine Arts Association and the Arts and Crafts Association during a Grand Raffle held at the Gallery a couple of weeks ago. The cheque was presented by the Chairman of the Arts and Crafts Association Gioranne Henshaw, and the President of the Gibraltar Fine Arts Society Willa Vasquez.

A second cheque was presented by Maribel Matthews, Artist of the Month at the Art Gallery this month. She presented a cheque for £1,464 from the earnings of her first solo exhibition. The exhibition has been the result of two years of work and is still on display at the Gallery.

Mr Davis said the Gibraltar Branch of the British Red Cross wished to thank everyone in Gibraltar for such a fantastic response to the Tsunami Appeal and for helping to raise more than half a million pounds.

“With the Tsunami Emergency Phase nearing completion, the British Red Cross have asked us to close the appeal with effect from the end of March. The Red Cross would therefore be grateful if any remaining collecting tins or outstanding donations could be sent in as soon as possible, in order that the bank account can be closed and the remaining funds transferred to London,” he said.

Overall the British Red Cross have raised over £16 million, out of a total collected by the Disaster Emergency Committee of £230 million. This has already allowed the Red Cross to send over £14 million in emergency aid to the affected areas.

The Red Cross, with all the other agencies is now turning to the next phases of the recovery operation, and rehabilitation teams are already working in the region to assess priority of needs. They believe that it will take a decade of hard work to re-build lost homes and businesses and to rehabilitate lost livelihoods.

2,000 FEARED DEAD AFTER NEW QUAKE

Meanwhile the latest disaster to have hit the area is now feared to have killed some 2,000 people. The grim search for survivors continues on a small island devastated by a new earthquake in south east Asia. For the second time in just a few months, the impoverished people of Nias were ravaged by the brutal power of nature as the tremor struck at the weekend. The community of coconut farmers and fishermen which has also been described as a surfers’ paradise was thought to be the area worst hit
by the disaster. Relief workers were arriving on the Indonesian island to begin an urgent assessment of the damage caused by the 8.7-magnitude quake. The disaster follows the Boxing Day tsunami which killed at least 174,000 people in 11 countries and left 1.5 million homeless. But fears faded that the latest quake would cause carnage on the same scale, although estimates suggest it may have killed up to 2,000.

Indonesian authorities said 330 bodies have already been found in the rubble in Nias with the toll expected to rise as more are found under collapsed buildings. Four Swedish tourists were reported to be missing on the island.

Oxfam staff are this week in the main town of Gunungsitoli, which appeared to have been one of the worst-hit areas.
Alessandra Villas-Boas, a member of the team, said: “Bodies are being pulled from the rubble as I speak."

Aid workers said 20,000 people had been left without water after the collapse of the electricity grid shut down pumping stations.

One mosque in the town was being used as a morgue and temporary shelter, and 34 bodies had already been brought there.

The town’s roads had also collapsed making transport by car impossible and there were also reports of food shortages.

Christian Aid have pledged to increase its aid funding to the region. Its local partner organisations were currently concentrating on providing food, water, medical services, and shelter to islanders.

Action for Churches Together estimated that between 500 and 1,000 buildings had been damaged or destroyed in Gunungsitoli.

Communications and infrastructure have been severely affected and the Nias airstrip was destroyed, with small aircraft having to land on a wide road. Claire Shelley, a press officer for Christian Aid, said she had been on the island three weeks ago to see the relief effort following the tsunami. She said:

"It is quite a small island and the southern tip is known as a surfers’ paradise. The people are quite poor."

Ms Shelley said the new disaster would be a terrible setback to the people of the island struggling to recover from the tsunami.

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