NEWS

No word on missing 9

Efforts were still being made by the government yesterday to track down the nine Greek tourists that have been officially declared missing in the tsunami disaster zone in Southeast Asia, while officials refused to deny claims that the actual number could be higher. As the official death toll from the tsunamis that hit coastal areas around the Indian Ocean, following Sunday’s major earthquake off Indonesia, edged above 125,000 last night, fears grew for the safety of at least nine Greeks in the area who remained unaccounted for. Almost 8,500 foreigners have been reported missing or unaccounted for so far. The government said it had no reason to believe that tourists from Greece would be added to the list of almost 300 foreigners that were confirmed to have been killed by the tidal waves. «There has still not been a single report of a dead or seriously injured Greek citizen. Based on cross-checked information, nine Greeks are still missing,» said Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos. However, confusion surrounded the status of a group of Greek tourists thought to be missing on the Maldives. Media reports had indicated that there were as many as 26 people but Koumoutsakos questioned the claims. He did not deny, however, that some Greeks may be missing on the islands. «The number of people for whom there are only indications, particularly unclear and unreliable information, has shrunk,» Koumoutsakos said. A senior diplomat told Kathimerini that the government would stick to its policy of not publicly naming any of the missing out of respect for their families. Meanwhile, Greece’s part in the massive humanitarian and rescue effort has been stepped up. A second C-130 air force transport plane was due to arrive in the Thai island resort of Phuket, carrying 25 fire brigade rescuers with their equipment this morning. The first military plane that left Greece, carrying doctors, rescuers and aid, was in Sri Lanka yesterday. Officials relayed messages to Athens that more tents were needed for disaster victims. The plane was due to fly on to Bangkok and then Phuket today. A third C-130 is due to leave Greece on Monday or Tuesday, according to diplomatic sources.