Consular Assistance of the Department during Tsunami

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR WRITTEN REPLY

QUESTION NO 151

TO BE PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 4 - 2005:
25 FEBRUARY 2005


MR KDS DURR (ACDP) TO ASK THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

(1) Whether the South African Embassy in Thailand set up a helpdesk immediately after the recent tsunami; if not, why not; if so, (a) when, (b) how did it function, (c) what accommodation was offered to survivors who had lost everything and (d) what further steps were taken;
(2) Why did the Net/Discovery mercy mission flight to Phuket return half-empty;
(3) Whether the Embassy charged destitute South Africans for replacement passport and photos; if so, what are the relevant details;
(4) Whether the South African Ambassador to Thailand was briefed for the interview with SKY TV on 2 January 2005; if not, why not; if so, why could she not give any statistics on the number of South African citizens dead missing or injured in the tsunami;
(5) What actions did the South African Ambassadors in the other countries affected by the tsunami take?
N195E

REPLY:

1 a) On Monday, 27 December 2004

1 b) The Embassy set up a Help Desk at the Crisis Centre at the Phuket City Hall. In addition, officials visited hospitals and mortuaries in order to locate our citizens.

1 c) In conjunction with the Thai authorities, free accommodation was made available at disaster relief centres. In view of the departure of the Nationwide "Mercy Flight" on Tuesday, 28 December 2004, survivors were requested to meet at the airport during that evening.

1 d) The Department activated its Emergency Response Centre in Pretoria on 26 December 2004 which remained operational on a 24 hour basis until 12 January 2005. In addition, three officials were dispatched to Phuket to support the Ambassador, including the Head of the Department's Consular Section. Through our efforts, we were able to trace a total of 2896 of our people that were reported missing in South East Asia. With our efforts and in support of families we successfully recovered the mortal remains of 11 of our people. Regrettably 4 bodies have not been recovered as yet. In this regard, Government dispatched the South African Police Services Chief Forensic expert and the Head of Pathology of the Gauteng Department of Health to Phuket to assist in the victim identification process established by the Thai government to assist in identifying the remaining mortal remains.

2. The flight sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Netcare 911, Discovery Health, Nationwide and the Jewish Board of Deputies accommodated 69 South Africans. Through the efforts of all the role players mentioned above and information disseminated both in South Africa and Thailand, only 69 persons availed themselves for the flight.

3. No

4. The Ambassador was the Head of the Government's support team to our people in Thailand. In this regard, the Ambassador was fully aware of detail as they unfolded and provided the media with such.

5. All our missions in the region immediately tasked consular officials to render assistance to South African citizens in the aftermath of the tsunami as is the practice during times of crisis. Missions assisted to locate missing people, co-ordinated the return of citizens and acted as an interface with the local authorities, the Department and their families.

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