13 January 2005

United Nations Vienna Holds Memorial Ceremony for Tsunami Victims

Permanent Representatives of Affected Countries Attend

VIENNA 13 January (UN Information Service) – Staff members of the Vienna International Centre (VIC)-based organizations and Permanent Representatives of the countries affected by the tsunami catastrophe gathered today at the VIC for a solemn ceremony in memory of the victims of the disaster.

Antonio Maria Costa, Director-General, United Nations Office at Vienna, and Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who addressed the ceremony, offered his condolences to the countries worst hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the thousands of innocent victims, with the countless displaced persons in need of food, shelter, and medicine, and with families and friends still waiting for news of loved ones lost or missing.”

Mr. Costa also provided an insight into the responses planned by UNODC, in support of the countries struck by this tragedy. “At UNODC, we intend to reach out to these victims in ways that are both meaningful for them and compatible with our mandate. In humanitarian disasters, states and citizens become vulnerable to specific kinds of threats, and in the areas affected by this tragedy, common sense tells us to expect increases in human trafficking, violence, and criminal schemes to divert charitable resources. We need to ensure that people who have already been victimized by nature do not become the victims of crime."   

The ceremony opened with a short musical performance by Dr. Prashanthi Mendis, an accomplished Sri Lankan musician. Dr. Mendis’ performance was dedicated to the victims, orphans and the internally displaced people affected by the tragedy.

This was followed by a candle-lighting ceremony, involving the Permanent Representatives of affected Member States, senior officials of VIC-based organizations, and VIC staff. Candles were lit for Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand.

The Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations (Vienna), Thomas Aquino Samodra Sriwidjaja, spoke on behalf of the affected Member States.

The tsunami catastrophe has been described as the worst earthquake the world has seen in the last 40 years, and has claimed more than 150,000 lives so far.

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