Thousands of Americans Unaccounted for After Tsunamis
The U.S. State Department is working to find thousands of Americans unaccounted for days after powerful tsunamis struck countries bordering the Indian Ocean. No exact numbers are available, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, but “we’re working at any given moment 2,000 to 3,000 names now that we’re looking for.” “We shouldn’t assume the worst. … There are often Americans who are outside of the regions that directly suffered who might not have gotten in touch.” Authorities have reported more than 116,000 deaths in at least 11 countries after Sunday’s tsunamis that were triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
Boucher said the department was getting about 400 calls per hour from concerned relatives seeking their loved ones. “In many cases, we are getting lists of these people out to embassies,” Boucher said. “Embassies then are able to track them down or hear from them or identify them.” Names are constantly being added to the list as new calls come in from families, he said. Boucher said 12 Americans are known to have been killed — seven in Sri Lanka and five. People are being asked to visit hospitals and morgues to identify Americans, Boucher said. More Americans are in Thailand than in any other affected nation, but they are being sought in other countries as well, he said.
The Thai government has assured U.S. officials, amid concern about mass graves, that the remains of non-Thai citizens will not be buried without proper identification, he said. Photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples are being taken and the location of foreigners’ remains is being monitored by the government, Boucher said.
Wow. This is the first indication I’ve seen that more than a handful of Americans might be victim to this disaster.