accessibility & help

How we supported Britons affected by the tsunami

Support for returning British nationals

Between 28 December 2004 and 11 January 2005, British Red Cross volunteers were at Gatwick and Heathrow airport to provide support to British nationals returning to the UK. Some of those who arrived were still in their beachwear, with no shoes, while others had untreated injuries, such as lacerations or infected mosquito bites. The Red Cross provided first aid, clothing or practical and emotional support to 2,618 people.

Telephone support line

On 1 January 2005 the British Red Cross opened a telephone support line for people in need of emotional support. Funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the phone line was also intended to support family members in the UK and other people directly affected by the crisis.

The line was open from 9am to 9pm every day and received over 1,100 calls. Volunteers from the Red Cross, Victim Support, Cruse Bereavement Care, Salvation Army and WRVS, took calls, assessed the caller’s needs, and either passed them on to other appropriate expert services or offered on-the-spot emotional support, advice and information.

Support to British nationals in Thailand

On 3 January the British Red Cross sent a team of support workers, at the request of the FCO, to assist British consular staff in Thailand. The team provided support to friends and relatives of the bereaved and missing, British nationals in hospital, and British embassy staff. Over the course of the next month the Red Cross sent 12 support workers who all had experience of working with distressed people. In total they provided assistance to 289 people.

This was the first time the British Red Cross had provided this type of assistance overseas. The Red Cross now has a roster of support workers who are on standby to provide assistance to Britons overseas when requested by the FCO. The roster includes people from the Red Cross as well as specialists, experienced in dealing with trauma, who have been recruited from the health service and private practice. They have been trained to work in an overseas environment alongside consular officials and travel as part of the FCO’s Rapid Deployment Team. These arrangements enable British nationals abroad to received immediate support after an emergency or terrorist incident abroad.  

Tsunami support network

In March 2005 the British Red Cross established the Tsunami Support Network to allow people directly affected by the tsunami to share information and experience. A dedicated website provided people with news and information and the network also held meetings where members could come together. The network was initially funded by the FCO and later by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. It is now funded by the Red Cross.

The support network provides advice and support to all those affected by the tsunami. It can accessed by calling 0845 054 7474.

Tsunami Hardship Fund

In November 2005 the British Red Cross established a special grants programme to provide assistance to people who were experience financial hardship as a direct consequence of the tsunami. Charitable grants of up to £10,000 were available to those experiencing financial hardship as well as grants of £2,000 to pay for medically prescribed counselling.

Support to British nationals at commemorative events

The British Red Cross also provided support to people attending commemorative events in the UK and overseas. The Red Cross provided assistance to people who wanted to attend the memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral and a reception at Highgrove hosted by the Prince of Wales. Volunteers were also present at both events to provide practical and emotional support.

In December 2005, 14 support workers travelled to Sri Lanka and Thailand with the FCO to support British nationals attending commemorative events taking place in those countries.

The Red Cross also provided support to people who attended the inquest.