Spaniard found alive but hopes fade for others

4th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 January 2005, MADRID-Nine days after the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, a missing Spaniard has been found.

4 January 2005

MADRID-Nine days after the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, a missing Spaniard has been found.

Jorge Balboa was traced by his family with the help of EFE news agency to Krabi in Thailand after working out where he sent a Christmas card from.

His family received the card, postmarked Krabi, on 28 December.

It was their only clue to his whereabouts as Balboa had travelled to Thailand on his own. 

His photo had been placed on various boards in hospitals throughout Phuket, in Thailand.

News agency reporters found the 44-year-old painter from Guadix, near Granada in Andalusia, on a beach in Ao Nang, safe and sound.

He told EFE: "Here nothing has happened. I stayed here because everything was in such disorder."

Balboa had been staying in Ao Nang painting watercolours on the beach for the past month.

However, hopes were fading for five other Spaniards who have disappeared.

They  were among 9,000 European tourists who have disappeared during the disaster on Boxing Day.

They were staying in different parts of Thailand when the disaster happened.

At least 11 Spaniards have died in the disaster though it is feared more may have lost their lives.

Spanish losses were low in comparison with other European countries like Britain which is thought to have lost up to 200 people.

The Far East is not a popular holiday destination for the Spanish and the festive period is normally spent with family.

Meanwhile, four forensic officers from the Spanish National Police arrived in Phuket to help identify bodies. They have joined a team of 300 forensic officers there.

In other developments, the main airport in the Indonesian province of Aceh has re-opened, allowing essential aid deliveries to tsunami-stricken areas to resume.

The runway had been blocked by an incoming aid plane that had hit a cow early on Tuesday. But salvage crews later managed to remove the aircraft.

Air links are vital to supply water, food and medicine to areas struck by the 26 December earthquake and waves.

The overall death toll is currently 140,000 and is set to rise further.

Tuesday's cargo plane accident led to the closure of the only airport in Aceh province.

After hitting the cow the damaged Boeing 737 rested on the runway, blocking it for most of the day.

Salvage crews had no heavy equipment to remove the aircraft. But after 15 hours, engineers managed to lift it using an airbag and pushed it to the side.

The airport had remained open to helicopters throughout the day.

In the US, President George W Bush asked his two immediate predecessors, George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton, to lead a private charitable fund-raising effort in the US.

The UK proposed an immediate moratorium on debt repayments from tsunami-hit countries, to be discussed by the G8 group of industrialised countries.

UN relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland said the death toll from the earthquake and the tsunami it triggered is likely to "grow exponentially" once aid workers can fully assess the extent of the damage.

In Meulaboh alone, the remote Indonesian town on Sumatra island closest to the epicentre, 40,000 are estimated to have died.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell - who is touring the region with President Bush's brother, Jeb - pledged America's full support in the relief effort.

"Each country has a different set of needs and what we are going to do is assess those needs," Mr Powell said after visiting the stricken Thai resort of Phuket on Tuesday.

Aid workers have warned of the threat of disease among survivors living in dire conditions.

Titon Mitra, emergency response director for Care International, told the BBC that sanitation facilities in the town of Banda Aceh were appalling.

"In these camps here we've got 3,000 people, and there's four toilets for 3,000 people, and normally you'd want 20 people one toilet."

If these conditions are not improved quickly, he adds, a "serious situation" could develop in the camps.

More than 1.8 million need food aid, and about five million are homeless as a result of the undersea earthquake off Sumatra and the tsunami it triggered.

Around USD two billion in aid has been pledged by governments and international agencies.


[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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