BRUSSELS, Belgium – Stock exchanges, workers, shoppers and businesses held a silent tribute across much of Europe Wednesday to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
Outside European Union (search) headquarters, hundreds of EU officials stood side by side in three-minute silence at noon to honor the dead. Flags in capital cities flew at half mast.
Buses, trams and subway cars also temporarily stopped service in several cities. TV and radio stations interrupted normal programs with special commemoration broadcasts, and shoppers in the January sales were asked to take a moment's pause.
Church bells rang across Switzerland as the tribute began. On the border with Switzerland, border guards on both sides fell silent and traffic was halted.
"It invites reflection," said Maj-Britt Rundkvist, a 55-year-old housewife from Stockholm. "You feel like you must do something. And after all, its money that's needed."
Sweden is set to be the western country hardest hit by the tsunami, with 52 confirmed killed and another 1,903 missing.
In Finland, a lone taxi driver at Helsinki (search) station's main taxi rank stood next to his car with bowed head for three minutes.
"Because everyone has to bear this heavy burden of sorrow ... I, too, in my small way, wanted to observe the silence," said Eila Tammilehto, standing near the station.
In many places, people continued with business as usual, unaware of the tribute.
"I didn't know about it, but it's a good idea to honor their memory and show we're thinking about them," said Antony Le Cerf, 19, a design student, one of many people taking cover in heavy Parisian drizzle on the Champs-Elysees (search).