Swiss helicopters end mission in Aceh

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Rupert Colville to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 March 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The three Swiss Super-Puma helicopters which were very generously put at the disposal of UNHCR in mid-January to assist with our tsunami relief operations in the Indonesian province of Aceh, flew their last mission on Sunday, 27 February, and are now packing up to return home. UNHCR's Acting High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin wrote to Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey on Monday expressing our profound gratitude to the Federal Council for the helicopters. Over six weeks of operations, the helicopters flew numerous sorties, airlifting over 300 tonnes of shelter and relief supplies to remote locations on Aceh's west coast and ferrying essential staff and equipment around the stricken area. The helicopters were an immense logistical boost to the refugee agency during the emergency relief phase of the operation and we are extremely grateful for the rapidity of the deployment of the helicopters and the very good cooperation and commitment of the crews.

The helicopters operated from their base in Medan in northern Sumatra. As destroyed roads are being rebuilt, supplies for longer term shelter needs can now be effectively moved by other means of transport including by ship.