27 December, 2004
Greece's foreign ministry activated its emergency services early Sunday morning following the catastrophic tidal waves that hit numerous parts of coastal Southeast Asia and the eastern shores of the Indian subcontinent following a gigantic 8.9 on the Richter scale earthquake off Indonesia.
According to a foreign ministry spokesman, Greece was immediately dispatching humanitarian aid to the affected areas. Specifically, a Hellenic Air Force C-130 “Hercules” transport plane carrying physicians, pharmaceuticals, equipment, blankets and tents was due to depart from an Athens airfield shortly after midnight for a designated airport in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, according to initial local press reports, an undetermined number of Greek tourists were vacationing in various SE Asia and Indian Ocean resorts, with some estimates citing more than 1,000. Phuket alone, a popular resort off southern Thailand, is believed to have been the Christmas destination of a few hundred Greek nationals, as Greek diplomats from Bangkok were ordered to head to the area.
Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos added that the Greek embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok and New Delhi were ordered to operate around-the-clock. Along those lines, communication with other EU member-states' diplomatic missions throughout the SE Asia region was initiated.
The transport ministry also announced that a pair of Olympic Airways passenger jets was reserved for possible flights to Indonesia and other SE Asian cities.
Deputy Foreign Ministers Yiannis Valinakis and Panayiotis Skandalakis were supervising the ministry's crisis management centre on Sunday, which was activated shortly after reports of the massive destruction were broadcast.
The ministry unveiled three local phone numbers -- (210) 3681212, 3681730, 3681350 -- for individuals to provide information on travelers to the region.
In a related development, scores of Greek seamen aboard ocean-going vessels throughout the vast sea regions affected by the tremendous quake were reported in good health, according to the merchant marine ministry.
Authorities spoke by ship-to-shore radio with the skippers of five merchant vessels sailing on routes off Borneo, Sri Lanka and Sumatra.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, in an announcement on Sunday night, said the Church has offered to contribute to the state's humanitarian efforts for those affected by a devastating earthquake in Southeast Asia via the NGO "Solidarity".
Source: Athens News Agency