28 December, 2004
Greece was due to dispatch emergency humanitarian assistance on Tuesday, including 300,000 euros to the governments of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, following the killer 'tsunami' tidal wave Sunday that resulted from a massive 8.9 Richter earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing at least 23,700 people, a foreign ministry announcement said on Monday.
According to the announcement, a C-130 aircraft of the Greek military is due to depart on Tuesday morning, for the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The military plane will be transporting emergency humanitarian aid, volunteer doctors and specialized personnel, who will be provide their services to the victims of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the area on Sunday, following efforts by Deputy Foreign Minister for Developmental Cooperation Evripides Stylianidis.
The Foreign Ministry's International Partnership for Development is coordinating the operation.
The aid would be accompanied by a diplomat from the ministry's International Developmental Cooperation Service (YDAS), as well as members of six Greek non-governmental organizations (NGOs) specializing in such crises.
More specifically, participating in the mission were: the Orthodox Church of Greece's NGO 'Solidarity', which was contributing 5 tons of food aid and clothing; the Doctors of the Heart NGO with aid of one ton of pharmaceutical and medical material and two specialized volunteer doctors; the Doctors of the World NGO with four specialized volunteer doctors and equipment; the European Prospect NGO with two volunteers specialized in crisis management and rehabilitation of stricken sites; the Thessaloniki Rescue Squad with two specialized members and equipment; and the Greek Fire-Squad Reforestation Volunteer Corps with three experienced experts in handling natural disasters, 30 tents with capacity to accommodate 360 people, special equipment to prop up constructions in danger of toppling, other specialized equipment, and first aid material and bandages.
Stylianidis, who launched an overnight campaign to mobilize and coordinate the NGOs and coordinated Monday's dispatch, also announced the foreign ministry's decision to send 150,000 euros in emergency assistance to the government of the Maldives and another 150,000 euros to the government of Sri Lanka.
Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said that contact with Sri Lanka had proven impossible as yet, and consequently there was no information on the situation of the Greek tourists in the area. However, he added, there were no problems with Greek tourists in the Maldives and Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said later in the day that an Olympic Airlines (OA) plane sent to pick up Greek tourists stranded on tsunami-stricken Phuket in Thailand departed from the island's airport on Monday at 17:30 Greek time with 156 passengers on board. Those flown out included two French nationals, five Cypriots and four Britons, while the remainder were all Greeks.
The Greek authorities were in constant contact with Cyprus and other EU member states so as to accommodate tourists from those countries on the OA flight as well.
The plane was carrying three Greek diplomats and a doctor, as well as food and medicine to cover immediate needs and an ample quantity of passports to replace lost travel documents.
Phuket was one of many southeast Asian islands and coastal areas that were devastated by huge tsunamis on Sunday. The OA plane was the first aircraft from an EU country to arrive in the disaster-struck region in order to pick up tourists wishing to return home. The plane is expected to arrive at Athens international airport early on Tuesday morning.
The Greek foreign ministry also said that a Finnish woman married to a Greek man, who had been holidaying on Phuket with her husband and son - now being treated in a Thai hospital for minor injuries - had not yet been in touch with the authorities or her family.
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed Monday by deputy foreign ministers Yannis Valinakis and Panayotis Skandalakis on the steps taken over the past 24 hours regarding the Greek tourists who were on holiday in SE Asia when the killer earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck, and on further action that was being taken.
Valinakis said after the meeting that an Olympic Airlines plane dispatched to bring back all Greek tourists in the area who wished to return home had arrived at Phuket, while Skandalakis said that 150 Greeks were at the airport and had stated they desired to return home.
The two deputy ministers did not give any further details, noting that statements would be made later in the day by the foreign ministry spokesman.
According to sources, several Greek tourists did not wish to return immediately.
Hot line set up: The Foreign ministry of Greece on Monday announced that a "hot line" has been set up for foreign nationals at the foreign ministry of Thailand following the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami tidal wave that hit SE Asia. The hot line number is: 00662 2417450-62
Source: Athens News Agency