12/27/2004, 00.00
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Grief and support not just for tourists and Phuket

Fr Piergiacomo Urbani, PIME missionary: "There are thousands of fishermen on the coast: no one is saying anything about these poor souls."  The Church launches a relief campaign for them.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - "Everyone here is taking interest in the tourist areas, like Phuket Island, and foreign victims, but the tidal waves hit practically Thailand's entire south-western coastline.  That area is home to thousands of fishermen, but no one is saying anything about those poor souls."  In remarks to AsiaNews, Fr Piergiacomo Urbani, a PIME missionary in Bangkok, regrets this oversight, referring to data released so far by government authorities and to television coverage of the disaster that has struck Thailand and many parts of Asia.

According to a Health Ministry statement this morning, at least 50 foreigners have died, but their nationality is still not known.  Local media reports say that among those missing are people from South Korea, Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong, Great Britian, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, Chile, the Czech Republic, Spain, the United States and Germany.

"People in Bangkok are grieved by the loss of so much human life", Fr Urbani said.  "Authorities say 800 people have died, 300 on Phuket alone, but the death toll will increase over coming days.  No one knows what has become of the fisherman living along the hundreds of kilometers of coastline.  This disaster is certainly a blow to the country, in terms of the loss of life and the effects on tourism: Christmas is high season as far as tourism is concerned.  But, most of all, people here are dismayed by the loss of life.  Yesterday, I was making my rounds to wish my parishoners a happy Christmas," said Fr Urbani, who leads a parish in Nonthamburi, a neighorhood of greater Bangkok, "Everyone was glued to their television sets: they didn't miss a moment of the tragic images arriving from the disaster areas.   And everyone pointed out to me that nothing was being said about the fishing villages along the coast: the full extent of the tragedy is greater than what has been shown so far.

Fr Urbani says there has been no news so far of damage to churches.  "There aren't many churches in the south.  There is a parish on Phuket, with a congregation of about one hundred, but the building isn't on the coast: it's inland and doesn't seem to have been affected by the fury of the surging waters."  He told AsiaNews that the Thai Church is about to launch a campaign across parishes and Catholic schools to raise funds in favour of the coast's fishermen.  The government has also taken action to bring emergency aid to affected areas.

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See also
Caritas Thailand sending first aid shipment to Nargis victims
Parish priest in Phuket: "A tragedy, worst hit are the poor"
Christians mobilise to help Nias quake victims
The Church helps people return to normal life
Europe, 3-minute silence for dead and missing


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