Tsunami: Four South Africans remain missing

Four South Africans are still unaccounted for following their disappearance during the Asian tsunami disaster, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in Pretoria on Friday.

Speaking at a breakfast honouring the volunteers who had helped in the relief effort, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sue van der Merwe said the South African government is still working closely with Interpol to trace the missing people.

She announced that a team of forensic experts and pathologists will be dispatched to Thailand on Saturday by the government in a bid to trace the four.

She said the team has collected DNA samples from the affected families for the identification process.

A devastating earthquake followed by a tsunami on December 26 left hundreds of thousands of people dead and even more displaced as raging waters obliterated homes and villages on three continents.

South Africans have been extensively helping with relief operations in Indonesia—the area worst hit by the disaster.

Another team from the humanitarian relief organisation Global Relief left South Africa this week for Meulaboh on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Global Relief’s CEO, Murray Louw, said three professional psychological and trauma counselling volunteers joined the Global Relief team in Indonesia to provide training to local teachers in psychological trauma intervention.

Louw said that in the weeks since the disaster, the organisation has coordinated the deployment of more than 60 professional volunteers in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

“They were grouped into nine different teams, of which nearly half are still deployed in the disaster areas,” he said.

Van der Merwe on Friday saluted those who had offered to help with relief work.

“For those of you who volunteered to be on duty during this period, you had to play simultaneously a number of roles.
You had to be an official, yet a counsellor of sorts, you had to give emotional support and yet not lose your cool in the process. You had to break news that was difficult and offer consolation as well as lifting the spirits of those who had survived and wanted to come home,” she said in her written speech.

She said that in going beyond their duty, the volunteers had acted in the spirit of the new country.

“For as people of South Africa, Africa and the south we have taken it upon ourselves to show solidarity with brothers and sisters who are suffering in the wider world,” she said.

Van der Merwe added that in this way the country is making a small and humble contribution to a more people-centred and caring world.—Sapa

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