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Hong Kong residents still being sought
By Albert Au-yeung (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-05 01:02

Another Hong Kong resident has been confirmed dead in the tsunami, bringing the death count to nine as of noon yesterday.

Sixty-two Hongkongers are still missing, while the number of the potentially missing has gone down to 325.

Speaking at a daily briefing on the disaster yesterday, Michael Wong, deputy secretary for security, said a 32-year-old Singaporean woman who had worked in Hong Kong was the latest casualty.

She was vacationing with her Belgian boyfriend in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck. Her boyfriend was only slightly injured.

After the disaster, six Hong Kong residents received treatment in Thai hospitals. The most recently revealed case was a Dutch woman hospitalized in Phuket.

Employers reported seven more cases of employees who have failed to turn up at work after the New Year's holidays, bringing the total to nine.

As to 58 school children who were absent from school after the holidays, Wong said all had been found to be safe. Some are in Hong Kong, and others have left the disaster-hit areas.

Yet Education and Manpower Bureau officials have reported that another six students from four primary schools and kindergartens are probably missing. Wong said police are looking into the cases.

Wong denied an accusation that announcing figures regarding missing school children would cause a panic in society. He said he was only giving "a clear description of the situation."

These numbers, however, are not included in the 62 cases of Hongkongers still officially considered as missing in the tsunami-affected areas -- 34 in Thailand, 11 in Indonesia, one in Malaysia and 16 in other areas.

In regard to a French family of three that are said to have been killed, they are still being counted as missing.

Meanwhile, the SAR government has downsized its support team in Thailand due to diminishing demands for their assistance as most stranded Hongkongers and families of missing persons have returned home.

Sending back 55 from Phuket and 2 from Bangkok, the government is now retaining 110 personnel in the country.

The support team will continue to provide necessary assistance to Hong Kong residents there, said Linda So, team co-ordinator in Thailand. SAR officials, for instance, will be present when hospitalized Hongkongers are visited by doctors during ward rounds.

And SAR police officers will continue their search for missing Hong Kong people in local hotels, So said.

There may be further redeployment of manpower in Thailand when necessary, she added.

Police officers in the support team yesterday visited seaside hotels on the Phuket Island but failed to find any traces of Hongkongers there.

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