Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Foreign minister promises more aid for disaster areas

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's Rescue Task Force, equipped with 2,300kg of relief equipment and supplies, prepares to board a flight to Phuket, Thailand, to assist in search and rescue operations following Sunday's catastrophic tsunami.

PHOTO: TONY YAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday pledged more aid to South and Southeast Asian countries devastated by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunamis, while continuing to gather information on missing Taiwanese on holiday in the region.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) will meet representatives from India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, four of the nations afflicted by the disaster, at 2pm today to learn more about their needs.

"The disaster may be one of the biggest we will see in our lifetimes ... We will listen to the representatives' opinions and decide how we can help their countries," Chen said at a press conference.

Apart from offering immediate financial aid to Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, a 10-member medical team organized by the ministry and the Department of Health has departed for Medan in Indonesia to join rescue efforts there. Taiwan has also sent 3,340 tonnes of relief aid to Medan, Chen said.

In other news, two members of a golfing association consisting mostly of China-based Taiwanese businessmen are missing in the Thai resort of Phuket, the ministry said.

The ministry also confirmed yesterday that 35 Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the waters around Phuket have been found. Some of the boats had been swept ashore, but no casualties were reported among the crew, Chen said.

The ministry has formed a task force, headed by Chen, to coordinate relief efforts for South Asian countries.

The ministry said it could not offer an exact number of Tai-wanese casualties in the region because the country's representative offices were still contacting local police and hospitals for further information.

Four officials from Taiwan's representative office in Bangkok are in Phuket helping repatriate Taiwanese tourists and looking for missing relatives.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has sent a condolence letter to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose grandson died in Phuket, Taiwan's representative office in Thailand said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) met leaders of NGOs with ties to affected countries yesterday to determine how to assist victims.

The ministry has set up a hotline (0912-581-007) for donations from the public.

"A lot of people have called since the line was opened," Lu said.

Also see story:

Over 100 fishermen still unaccounted for: MOFA officials

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