Six months after the severe bad weather hit Switzerland between Freiburg and Lake Constance in August of last year, Swiss Solidarity and its two partner relief organizations, the Swiss Red Cross and Caritas Switzerland have drawn an initial balance: immediate relief and bridging aid have for the most part been completed – to date 168 requests (CHF 1.2 million) have been approved and dealt with. Another 800 to 900 requests for subsidiary aid are expected or are in the pipeline.
Subsidiary aid means that Swiss Solidarity helps in cases of hardship and on request by supplementing the services of insurance companies, natural hazard and damage funds, subsidies and other benefits. Special donation commissions have been set up in each canton to ensure fair use of donated funds. The commissions include representatives of the authorities, financial experts, insurance companies and experts from the Red Cross and Caritas acting on behalf of Swiss Solidarity. In Canton Bern, the donation commission has been set up at the level of the five administrative districts affected.
The work of the commissions is complicated by the numerous direct donations to private persons, corporations, companies and municipalities, as all donations received must first be coordinated and balanced with other benefits. As a rule Swiss Solidarity steps in last, where private persons, family businesses or smaller financially-weak municipalities are unable to meet remaining costs. As one example, Swiss Solidarity will grant an advance payment of nearly CHF 1 million to a mountain community in the next few days.
Experience gained with the storm damage in Valais/Ticino in autumn 2000 has shown that complex clarifications and final settlements can take many years. It is already clear that the CHF 49.2 million donated to last summer’s natural disaster fund will scarcely be sufficient to cover all the requests for assistance.
The authorities and insurance companies anticipate damage claims in the range of CHF 2.5 billion. The hardest-hit areas were the Bernese Oberland, the Innerschweiz (mainly cantons UR, LU, OW, NW) part of Graubunden and the Matte district in the city of Bern.