5 Pinoys hurt in Thailand tsunami

FIVE Filipinos, including four women, were among the thousands hurt in Phuket, Thailand, after earthquake-spawned tidal waves slammed into coastal areas in nine countries last Sunday, Department of Foreign Affairs officials said yesterday.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo had dispatched an embassy staffer to Phuket to identify any Filipinos on the list of eight casualties with Filipino-sounding names released by the Thai Ministry of Interior.

The five hurt in the tsunami were Marco Sangil, Vergini Cruz, Miss Virginia, Margaret Ang-Choi, who were all confined at the Vichara Hospital, and Rosemarie Phi King Ang-Tan, who was confined at Patong Hospital. Both hospitals are in Phuket.

"Ms Rosemarie Phi King Ang-Tan is confined for minor injuries. The four others in the Vichara Hospital - we have not received any information from the embassy as to the nature of their injuries," DFA spokesperson Gilberto Asuque said at a press briefing.

Officials could not say if those injured were working in or touring Phuket when giant waves smashed into homes, restaurants and hotels on the island and other coastal areas in Thailand on Sunday.

An estimated 70 to 120 Filipinos are based in the island resort, working as diving instructors, hotel staff and musicians. The government estimated that some 1,500 people were killed in Thailand and more than 7,000 injured.

On Sunday, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake under the Indian Ocean near Sumatra, Indonesia, unleashed a tsunami that battered southern Thailand and later India and Sri Lanka and several other countries.

Ang-Tan's husband, David Tan, a British national, and their daughter Sharleen May are missing. Consular staff members were scouring hospitals, hotels and other establishments to look for them, Asuque said.

Ang-Choi, one of the injured Filipinos, was married to Choi Chung Huen, a British passport holder who was among those killed and was earlier erroneously identified as a Filipino by the Thai Ministry of Interior.

Eight fatalities
The DFA was furnished a list of eight casualties with Filipino-sounding names, namely: Barrera Jann, Curlos Barong, Major Tomas, Mary Tanagtong, Sesilvia Bargoa, Sevrine Pairuno, Flona Gallan and Feri Cornelia.

"The bodies are being preserved, and the Thai ministry has requested the Philippine Embassy for assistance in verifying the names of the eight individuals," Asuque told reporters in a briefing.

Since the department could not confirm if any of them was a Filipino from its databank of passport applications, officials decided to release their names to the press "to expedite verification."

"We are releasing the Filipino-sounding names through the media so this would reach relatives in the Philippines. Hopefully, someone would recognize their names," Asuque said.

So far, the DFA has not received any report of casualties, injuries or the disappearance of Filipinos in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia in the aftermath of the disaster, Asuque said.

Relatives of any of the eight casualties should contact Sheila Solas of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs at 834-4594.

Inquiries about overseas Filipinos affected by the tsunami should call the DFA Action Center at 834-3333 or the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration Operations Center at 833-6992 or 833-OWWA, 551-6641, 551-1560; fax nos. 804-0638, 551-6651; website: www.owwa.gov.ph; e-mail: opcenter@owwa.gov.ph.

Ship crew safe
Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas yesterday said 73 Filipino crewmen manning a luxury ship in the Indian Ocean, as well as seven overseas Filipino entertainers in Phuket, Thailand, were confirmed safe.

The OWWA OpCenter reported that all the 73 Filipino seafarers manning the luxury liner "Silver Cloud" were safe based on the confirmation given by the seafarers' Jebsens Manning Agency in Manila.

Sto. Tomas said the OpCenter was also getting in touch with the manning agencies to monitor and confirm the safety of Filipino seafarers on the following vessels: MV Constellation, MV River Dream, MV Sidney, MV Peam Siam, MV Zaabel, MV Sea Boss, MV Lady Grete, MV NYK Castor, MV Cornelis and MV Lake Arafura.

She added that the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (Polos) in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as the 24-hour OWWA OpCenter in Pasay City were doing all they could to assist affected Filipino workers and their families, by continuously monitoring the situation, and providing updates.

The OWWA OpCenter also opened its doors to relatives of OFWs who are in the tsunami-stricken countries, giving them three minutes of free calls so they could ascertain if their loved ones were safe.

The Polos, in coordination with the Philippine embassies, were pushing onsite efforts to get in touch with, confirm developments, and assist any affected OFWs.

According to figures furnished by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, some 5,300 documented OFWs were deployed to affected Indian Ocean countries from January to July this year, the majority of them in Malaysia (2,745) and the rest in India (179), Maldives (80), Burma (Myanmar) (77), Sri Lanka (183), Thailand (1,091) and Indonesia (1,044).

Medical teams
Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz announced yesterday that the government would send medical teams to tsunami-stricken countries in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand and Indonesia.

The deployment of medical teams was made on orders of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following a meeting with the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) yesterday morning. Cruz chairs the NDCC in concurrent capacity.

During the meeting, Cruz emphasized the need to have an effective information campaign on tsunamis and other disasters to minimize damage to lives and property.

"The NDCC will work toward an effective information campaign on the dangers of tsunamis, earthquakes and typhoons to minimize damages to lives and properties in the event of these three major natural disasters," Cruz said in a statement.

The Department of Health was also communicating with the Thai health minister to see what kind of assistance the Philippine government could give.

"We've been asked to prepare medical teams, but there are no details yet. We'll assess their needs and see what we can manage to give," Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit told the Inquirer in a phone interview yesterday.

Prayers and donations
The Catholic Church yesterday rallied the country's faithful to donate, in cash or in kind, to their Asian neighbors who were affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and Caritas Manila will be receiving donations from individuals and parishes starting today.

"Although we have been badly hit by recent calamities, we Filipinos can still share something. For this reason, I appeal to all Filipinos to offer financial help," CBCP president Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla said in a message yesterday.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales also urged all parishes in Manila, the Philippines' biggest cluster of dioceses, to set aside a portion of the Sunday collections for victims of the tsunami.

"Tragedy and human suffering transcend many barriers. All of a sudden, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Maldives have become special neighbors to us. These people now reach out to us in the manner that our own sufferings have in the past," Rosales said in his message yesterday.

Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra called for prayers for those still missing, those injured, and those struggling to survive after losing their homes in the largest earthquake to hit the world in 40 years.

"I appeal for prayers for the repose of the souls of those who perished and their bereaved families," he said.

The catastrophe, he added, should also be a reminder for everyone to seriously do something to take care of the environment and ecology.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias I˝iguez said the tsunami that hit six countries in Asia was a wake-up call for the Philippine government to ensure that its weather bureau was well-equipped to monitor possible calamities.

Donations for the victims of the tsunami can be coursed through Caritas Manila at 527-4146, 527-4148, 527-4163 or through the CBCP's National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) accounts with Citibank at Paseo de Roxas, Makati City. For peso donations, the account number is 8-133-000-980. For dollar donations, the account number is 8-142-002-559. Both are under the account name CBCP-NASSA.

Capalla said donations from Philippine churches would be handed over to the Caritas offices in the affected countries. (Inquirer News Service)

29/12/2004

Bron : Manila Bulletin

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