Consular Assistance of the Department during Tsunami
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
(2) Why did the Net/Discovery mercy mission flight to Phuket return
(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;
What actions did the South African Ambassadors in the other countries affected
by the tsunami take?
1 a) On Monday, 27 December
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.
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