Tue, Dec 28, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan offers condolences and aid to disaster areas

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Thai police officer checks the passport of a Western tourist while comparing it with pictures of unidentified dead victims pasted on the window of the morgue at Pathong hospital in Phuket yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

The government yesterday issued a "travel advisory" yesterday for Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bengal, Indonesia's Aceh, Thailand's Phuket, Malaysia's Penang, Kedah, Perlis and Langkawi, and eastern and southern India in the aftermath of devastating tidal waves caused by an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale that wreaked havoc across Asia on Sunday.

The nation's travel advice system is classified into three categories: a "travel alert" advises travelers not to visit the area if not necessary, a "travel advisory" advises travelers to postpone trips to the area and a "travel warning" recommends travelers against travel to the area.

According to Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), about 470 Taiwanese tourists were still stranded in Phuket as of yesterday.

China Airlines and Uni Air agreed to transport Taiwanese tourists stranded in disaster areas home if necessary, and Far Eastern Air Transport also expressed its willingness to provide transportation support, Chen said. The disaster claimed the life of one Taiwanese tourist and slightly injured three others.

The deceased tourist was identified as 25-year-old Liao Feng-shuin (廖風順) from Kaohsiung County, and his family flew to Phuket yesterday.

Two Taiwanese traveling in Maldives were reported to be safe, while no Taiwanese travel groups were reported to be in Sri Lanka or India when the tsunamis hit, Chen said.

About 35 Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the waters of the region ran aground when the disaster hit, but no deaths were reported, although some fishermen suffered minor injuries, he added.

In a bid to help the affected countries cope with the disaster, Chen said that government agencies are gearing up to provide the hardest hit areas with financial, medical and humanitarian assistance.

According to Chen, the Executive Yuan will offer the Indonesian government US$100,000 and the Thai, Indian and Sri Lankan governments US$50,000 in immediate financial aid.

The decision was made during an emergency meeting presided over by Vice Premier Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) and attended by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Council of Agriculture. Yeh also requested that the foreign ministry express the condolences of Taiwan to the affected countries via the ministry's representative offices.

Yeh ordered a task force to be set up under the foreign ministry, headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山), in a bid to better integrate public and private resources.

The task force established a special telephone line for public inquiries about volunteering aid, and a bank account was established to receive donations from the public. The earthquake aid hotline's number is 0912-581-007.

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