Phuket evacuees are flown to Athens

As a special Olympic Airways flight was set to bring more than 100 Greek holidaymakers back from a popular Thai resort afflicted by Sunday’s tidal waves early this morning, the Foreign Ministry insisted yesterday that it had no information on dead, missing or seriously injured Greek nationals in the wide area of southeastern Asia lashed by the disaster. The 135 Greeks, along with 11 Cypriot, British and French nationals, were evacuated from Phuket Island on a plane chartered by the government, while ministry officials said other Greek nationals wishing to return home should contact local consular authorities to arrange to return on special flights laid on by European Union states. Around 300 Greeks are believed to have been on holiday in Phuket when the disaster struck. The provisional death toll from the tidal waves – sparked by a massive, 8.9-Richter earthquake off western Indonesia – rose to 23,000 yesterday. The countries worst affected were Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar and Malaysia. Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said «several hundred» Greeks who had arranged their holidays with travel agencies were known to have been in afflicted areas, but it was uncertain how many had traveled there privately. Stylianidis also announced that Greece would send 150,000 euros in emergency aid to the Maldives, and another 150,000 to Sri Lanka. Yesterday afternoon, a military transport plane set off for the Maldives and Sri Lanka, carrying doctors and rescuers from non-governmental organizations, food, medicine and tents.