9 Greeks missing in Asia

Nine Greek tourists were officially declared missing yesterday following the destruction wreaked in large coastal areas of southeastern Asia by tidal waves that followed Sunday’s giant earthquake off Indonesia. But Foreign Ministry officials stressed that given the magnitude of the disaster – for which the official death toll had risen yesterday to 80,000 – and the ensuing confusion, it was proving extremely hard to procure reliable information regarding missing Greek nationals. Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos told a lunchtime press briefing that some 17 Greeks were suspected missing, although this number appeared to be set to fall. «We can now report that out of these 17 people, we are currently in a position to speak of 10 [officially missing], on the basis of sufficiently cross-checked information,» he said in a later statement. Shortly later, the figure was revised down to nine after one of the 10 people contacted his family in Greece. No names of missing people – most of whom are believed to have been in Thailand resorts when the killer tsunamis struck – were made public. But ministry sources indicated that up to 20 Greeks who had been on holiday in the Maldives have still to show any sign of life. «There is a number of Greek citizens regarding whom our information is either very vague or not cross-checked,» Koumoutsakos said. «This number mainly derives from phone calls by holidaymakers’ friends and relatives, or from travel agencies.» Koumoutsakos added that some 30 Greeks on the Maldives had elected to stay on for the rest of their holidays. So far, no Greeks have been officially listed as dead or seriously injured. Koumoutsakos said a second air force transport plane was awaiting the go-ahead from Thai authorities to leave for the Phuket island resort, carrying 25 fire brigade rescuers with their equipment. A first C-130 transport with aid, doctors and rescuers left for Sri Lanka and the Maldives on Tuesday after a 48-hour delay while Greek authorities awaited official clearance from countries it was due to overfly.