Fischer heads for Asia as German death toll mounts

3rd January 2005, Comments 0 comments

3 January 2005, BERLIN - With more than 1,000 Germans are expected to have been killed in the 26 December tsunami disaster, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is to fly to Asia next weekend to confer with government leaders on further emergency measures.

3 January 2005

BERLIN - With more than 1,000 Germans are expected to have been killed in the 26 December tsunami disaster, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is to fly to Asia next weekend to confer with government leaders on further emergency measures.

Saying the bodies of 60 Germans have so far been identified, German Foreign Office spokesman Klaus Scharioth warned that the final death toll will be far higher as more German relief equipment was readied for deployment in the disaster region. 

"The number of German citizens still missing is well over 1,000," Scharioth told a Berlin news conference. "It has been a week now, and we must realistically face the fact that these unfortunate people are very likely lost."

However, the German government has rejected media reports that 3,200 German nationals were missing in the wake of the tsunamis.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's deputy spokesman, Thomas Steg criticised as "irresponsible" a story in the newspaper Die Welt which cited what it termed a secret government estimate which put the number of German tourists missing at 3,200.

Lists of German nationals were still being compared between travel companies, airlines and German police, Steg said.

The foreign ministry said Berlin had no plans to publish its lists of those missing - as has been done in some of the Nordic countries.

Interior ministry officials have called on Germans returning from stricken regions of south Asia to report to authorities so their names can be removed from "missing" lists.

Germany, which has earmarked nearly USD 30 million (EUR22 million) in immediate disaster relief, is stepping up its effort to get food and medical supplies to the disaster zone, he said.

About 400 Germans were injured in the disaster, and the Foreign Office spokesman said they are being airlifted back to Germany "just as speedily as the medical condition of these people permits. Some have suffered horrific injuries and cannot be moved at present."

A planeload of German victims of last week's devastating tsunami were airlifted home on Sunday while a German military plane stood by to deliver a field hospital to hard-hit Aceh Province in Indonesia.

A MedEvac flying clinic landed at Bonn-Cologne airport on Sunday with 38 badly injured German nationals aboard. They were tourists on Christmas holidays at Thailand's Phuket resort when the quake-spawned tidal wave hit last Sunday.

It was the second planeload of German disaster victims to arrive. On Friday the MedEvac plane ferried 49 injured persons home to Germany.

Meanwhile the Bundeswehr armed forces medical service drew up plans to set up a field hospital in Aceh province to treat Indonesians injured by the tsunami or caught up by the spread of diseases since.

Up to 100 personnel are on stand-by to fly to Indonesia, but the size and form of the medical station will not be decided until an advance party of eight have reached the Aceh region and determined what is needed.

The number of beds and how many operating theatres to set up will be decided by the advance party. The unit also hopes to improve hygiene conditions to stop the spread of disease. 

Cholera-like symptoms have already begun to show up among homeless people gathered in camps near the devastated provincial capital of Banda Aceh. Cholera is contracted by drinking water that has been contaminated with faeces. 

Indonesia was worst hit by the disaster, with Jakarta saying up to 80,000 people were killed.


Subject: German news

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