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43 Chinese Tourists Still Missing After Tsunami

Forty-three Chinese tourists remain missing in the tsunami-stricken Thai resort of Phuket, an official from the Chinese Embassy to Thailand said on Wednesday.


Five of the missing travelers are from the mainland, thirty from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and eight from Taiwan Province, Pan Guangxue, an embassy counselor, told Xinhua at the relief center in Phuket.


He said the embassy is making every effort to locate those who are missing.


So far, 486 travelers from the mainland, including all the injured, have left Phuket for home.


The number of Hong Kong residents missing on the resort island is down substantially from yesterday.


Hong Kong's Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang said on Tuesday afternoon at a press conference that at least 213 Hong Kong travelers were missing in the disaster-stricken area: about 170 in Phuket, 10 in Sri Lanka and the remainder in Maldives, Indonesia and Malaysia.


"As some information we have gathered is rather unclear and incomplete, we don't have the exact number of Hong Kong residents still remain missing in those countries," said Tsang.


At a Foreign Ministry press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, spokesman Liu Jianchao was unable to confirm the exact number of those missing from the mainland and Taiwan.


The total number of confirmed deaths has soared to at least 63,000 from Sunday's devastating tsunami, triggered by a powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean.


On Tuesday morning, China's first shipment of relief supplies, including medicine, blankets and tents, departed Beijing for Sri Lanka, one of the hardest-hit countries in the disaster. The Chinese government is providing more than 21 million yuan (US$2.6 million) in aid.


The Red Cross Society of China plans to offer US$150,000 in emergency aid to affected countries.


In Hong Kong, aid organizations, corporations and individuals are also gearing up to provide assistance.


The Hong Kong Red Cross on Tuesday raised about HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) in donations from citizens and businesses, while World Vision Hong Kong plans to raise US$200,000 to purchase relief materials such as clothes, food and tents for victims in Sri Lanka and India.


HSBC has donated US$1 million and Li Ka Shing -- chairman of Hutchison Whampoa and Asia's richest man -- chipped in HK$24 million (US$3.1 million).


Action star Jackie Chan donated HK$500,000 (US$64,000) to UNICEF.



(Xinhua News Agency, China.org.cn December 29, 2004)

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