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Europe Pauses to Remember Tsunami Victims

Tens of millions of people across Europe have observed three minutes of silence as a mark of respect for the victims of the Asian tsunami.

The brief tribute came on the same day that Germany announced it will increase its aid to the affected countries to $675 million, making it one of the biggest donors.

At midday in most of Europe, people paused to remember those who died and those who are still suffering half a world away. Flags were lowered to half staff at government buildings, while people at airports, railway stations, supermarkets, factories and offices, from Lisbon to Ljubljana, stopped to reflect on a natural disaster whose toll is beyond mankind's recent memory.

The Anglican Archbishop of York, David Hope, was one of those asking the question that is on everybody's mind. "How can this happen? How can this be? So many caught up, so many innocent people going about their ordinary everyday business, as in other world events? And those questions remain," he said.

The purpose of the initiative by the European Union was to give people across the continent, which lost many of its own citizens in the disaster, a chance to remember all those who died. No European country has been hit harder than Sweden, which has 700 citizens confirmed missing and another 1,200 unaccounted for.

For the past 10 days, Stockholm resident Elias Modig has been searching for news of his 27-year-old brother Jakob, who had been on vacation in southern Thailand when the tsunami hit. "The same factor that keeps you hoping is also the same factor that tortures you, and that is the lack of information," he said. "Because that is what keeps you hoping that they still might find him. But that is also what keeps you screaming out in tears."

Alongside Sweden, Germany appears to be the hardest hit European country, with over 1,000 nationals missing or unaccounted for.