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HK, Mainland Step Up Tsunami Relief Efforts

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee said on Wednesday that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government will send a 120-member team to Thailand to assist in the safe return of Hong Kong travelers stranded by Sunday's killer tsunami.

Lee said at a press conference that the team includes Immigration Department staff, police and medical workers. Three health care workers and 19 immigration officers departed on Wednesday and the remainder of the team was scheduled to fly out on Thursday.

He said the HKSAR government is establishing a command post at the Thai resort of Phuket to coordinate assistance for tourists who were visiting Thailand when the massive waves crashed into the coast on December 26. Aid centers will also be set up in Phuket and Bangkok.

As of 1:00 PM Wednesday, a total of 388 Hong Kong residents had not been accounted for, 325 of them tourists who were known to be visiting Phuket. Another 14 were missing in Sri Lanka, seven in Malaysia, six in the Maldives and the remainder in other countries.

"We have deployed a huge amount of manpower to do the search since seeing the enormous number of residents who have not yet contacted their families or us," Lee said.

Some 664 Hong Kong residents were accounted for but stranded in South and Southeast Asian countries.

On the mainland, following a Wednesday night meeting between leading officials from several ministries China decided to increase substantially its emergency aid to the tsunami-hit countries.

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing presided over the meeting that included leading officials of the ministries of finance, commerce and health, the China Seismological Bureau and People's Liberation Army.

They decided to set up a 100-member medical treatment team that will be prepared to leave within 24 hours of notification. A field hospital and the search-and-rescue group of China's international rescue team are prepared to leave and are currently on standby.

The Ministry of Commerce will head the effort to get additional relief supplies to the overwhelmed Indian Ocean countries.

Meanwhile, Chinese experts continue to join the rescue teams of international organizations such as the World Health Organization.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have been closely monitoring the situation in the disaster-hit countries and urging the Foreign Ministry to make every effort to assist.

(Xinhua News Agency December 30, 2004)

China to Increase Aid to Tsunami-hit Countries
Death Toll Passes 80,000 in Asia's Tsunami
2 Chinese Dead, 25 Wounded in Thai Tsunami
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President Sends Condolences to Quake Victims
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
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