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Premier sends condolences to families
By Tonny Chan & Eddie Luk (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-07 01:32

Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday offered condolences to families in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan who lost members in the tsunami disaster in South Asia, pledging that the central government will continue to render assistance.

Wen was in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to attend a meeting with leaders from the region and other nations to co-ordinate local aid operations and discuss a quake-tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean.

As of 9 am yesterday, a total of 42 Chinese citizens had been reported missing in the Asia tsunami disaster, including seven from the Chinese mainland and one from Macao, according to the official website of China's embassy in Thailand.

So far, 12 Chinese citizens have been confirmed killed in the disaster.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Wen told the press that the country's overseas diplomatic missions would work closely with the local authorities to monitor developments.

"We wish to give our heart-felt condolences to those in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan who are disastrously affected and let us grieve for those who have lost their lives in the disaster," Wen said.

"The Chinese Government, our overseas embassies and consulates care about them and will help them."

59 missing

In Hong Kong, the SAR government announced three more residents previously reported missing in the region were found safe in the past 24 hours.

As of yesterday, the official count of missing Hong Kong residents was reduced to 59.

Among the missing, 34 were last reported in Thailand, 10 in Indonesia, one in Malaysia and 14 in other areas of the region. There is no report of Hong Kong residents missing in the Maldives or Sri Lanka.

The official death toll of Hong Kong residents in the disaster stood unchanged at nine while the number of "potentially" missing residents dropped to 148 from more than 320 the previous day, Deputy Secretary for Security Michael Wong said.

Among the six injured treated at local hospitals the previous day, four were discharged and two remained in hospital, Wong said.

He said police and immigration officers had found all six students whom schools were anxious to contact. All were safe.

But three Hong Kong employees -- one German and two Indonesians -- were still unaccounted for after six of the nine reported missing a day earlier were located.

Social workers' help

A group of social workers yesterday departed for Phuket to offer counselling to Hong Kong people searching for missing family members.

The six volunteers, dispatched by Hong Kong Social Welfare Employees Association, will work with the government search team to provide support to Hong Kong residents.

"Hong Kong people are suffering immense stress, both physically and mentally, in their search for missing family members," said Chan Man Luen-ying, a registered social worker dispatched to Phuket.

He believes the three-member government search medical panel is not able to meet the demand for psychological counselling services.

"We will visit major hospitals to reach those families and the injured. We can give more in-depth counselling if necessary," said Chan.

"We hope that we can help the Chinese and Hong Kong residents with our knowledge and skills," he said.

Chan Yee-fei, one of the organizers of the mission, agreed that there is real need for psychological counselling among Hong Kong people in Phuket.

"They suffer great anxiety and are emotionally strained, after waiting for news of their family members for more than one week.

"Aside from survivors, these family members are also prone to post-traumatic stress disorder. If they lack access to proper counselling and care, they could develop depression or other mental problems," Chan said.

He also pointed out these people tend to be passive in getting psychological help, making an initiative to reach out to them necessary.

The six volunteers, who are professional counsellors with experience in providing services to people of different age groups, are scheduled to return next week.

Also, the plight of the tsunami survivors appears to have touched every corner of the planet, right down to the prison cells in Hong Kong.

More than 760 prisoners in the high-security Stanley Prison, where some of the city's most hardened criminals are locked up, have donated HK$141,788 (US$18,178) after learning of the December 26 catastrophe, according to a wire report.

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