Milan (AsiaNews) Just over a month and a half after it began, the fundraising campaign for tsunami victims launched by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME) has reached 580,755, this according to Fr Davide Sciocco, director of PIME's Missionary Centre in Milan and the campaign's coordinator.
About 130,000 were spent in January on emergency relief projects such as aid to the Nirmala Hospital in Karinkal in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is run by the Missionaries of the Immaculata, and essential goods, boats and nets for fishermen from villages around the state's capital of Chennai.
In February 260,000 were allocated for projects promoted by PIME missionaries or other institutions.
About 15,000 were given to a medical team providing psychological counselling that is working with Fr Adriano Pelosin in Thailand. Another 38,000 was given to Father Thota, PIME's campaign coordinator in India, who bought 10 boats and equipment for fishermen in Anglammankuppam, Tamil Nadu.
Stigmatine Fathers received another 17,000 to help families on Ko Lanta Yai Island, in Thailand.
Indian missionaries of St Francis Xavier (aka Pilar Fathers) received 100,000 to rebuild schools and hostels destroyed on the Andaman Islands, where the death toll is likely to reach much higher than what Indian authorities have so far reported.
According to local Member of Parliament Manoranjan Bhakta, many of those missing were "illegal settlers on islands supposedly reserved for indigenous tribes. For this reason the government does not know the exact number of dead and missing".
Soon after the disaster, Mgr Aleixo Dias, Bishop of Port Blair (capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Union Territory), had stated that about 15,000 had died and not the 700 reported by the government.
Yesterday the Islands were jolted again by another quake that measured 5.6 quake on the Richter scale.
PIME's campaign allocated another 30,000 to the Nirmala Hospital, the only major health facility still standing in India Far South, whilst another 60,000 is going to rehabilitate damaged orphanages.
"The rest of the money raised will be used in the coming weeks to provide additional financial aid to existing projects or to fund new ones that are being identified. We shall soon report on how the money was spent," said Father Sciocco.
Recently, three Italian volunteers left for south-east Asia to follow up on development projects in India and Thailand and identify the most urgent needs of the population. (LF)