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NZRed Cross closes Tsunami call centre


12 January 2005

New Zealand Red Cross closes South Asia Tsunami call centre

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will resume taking phone inquiries about New Zealanders unaccounted for in South Asia following the closure of the Red Cross call centre at midday today.

The call centre was established on December 28 to take inquiries and information from family and friends of New Zealanders believed to be in South Asia when the Boxing Day earthquakes and tsunami hit.

On its first day, the call centre took more than 3795 calls. That number has dropped to just over 100 a day – many of those to offer assistance rather than to inquire about friends and family.

The call centre was initially manned 24 hours a day and its operating hours have been gradually cut back to 8am-5pm. Over the past two weeks 167 people have worked as volunteers in the call centre, covering 400 shifts and taking about 18,000 calls.

New Zealand Red Cross Operations Manager Andrew McKie said the efforts of volunteers had been a great service to New Zealanders who have had concerns for loved-ones in South Asia.

“It has been a huge volunteer effort – we could not have done it without them,” Mr McKie said. “Our volunteer network is one of the great strengths of the New Zealand Red Cross.”

“Callers have appreciated being able to contact the Red Cross and have felt very comfortable talking to the volunteers.”

Calls to 0800 Red Cross will continue be answered by Red Cross staff, and Foreign Affairs inquiries will be referred to the Foreign Affairs number, 04 439 8000.

Many of the calls received over recent days have been to offer clothing and other assistance. The New Zealand Red Cross is not accepting clothing donations for South Asia as clothing is expensive to package and transport, it can take up valuable air freight space, and an influx of clothing can be very damaging for local manufacturers and fragile economies trying to recover from a disaster such as this.

More than 1000 people have offered their services in South Asia and the Red Cross has kept a database of these names, however the Red Cross has an existing network of trained staff and volunteers it calls on first in emergencies. People who want to work for the Red Cross long-term can contact their local Red Cross office or visit the website, www.redcross.org.nz.

The New Zealand public have now donated $5.5 million to the Red Cross South Asia Tsunami appeal - the most money ever raised for a New Zealand Red Cross emergency appeal.

Donations can still be made by dialing 0900 31 100 (an automatic $20 donation), or by visiting the Red Cross website, www.redcross.org.nz.

All money raised will go directly to providing relief, as the Red Cross takes no money from special appeals for administration costs.


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