Thousands of European Vacationers on Warm Asian Beaches
Meet a Bitter End
By Arnon Yaffe, Paris
Thousands of Europeans seeking refuge from the dismal
northern winter were swallowed up by the tidal wave of death.
The expensive, long-awaited vacation in luxury seaside hotels
turned into a nightmare. "Now I know what hell looks like,"
said one Austrian survivor flying into Paris. "A mass of
ocean waves sweeping away people, animals, garbage, cars and
parts of destroyed houses. Everything except for birds, and
leaving behind a grey desert from which the stench of death
The majority of the dead and missing on the beaches of
Thailand are Europeans. According to estimates thousands of
Europeans were among the 150,000 dead. In a national address
President Chirac offered to set up a "humanitarian
intervention force." Even in the face of tragedy the United
Nations and France are exchanging accusations with the United
States over who is more generous. After being accused of
"stinginess" an American diplomat said France is giving less
than the US and talking more. France is contributing 41
million euro. Not just nations, but people appalled at what
they see alleviate their feelings of distress by making
In addition to the known 700 European dead, 3,500 Swedes,
1,500 Germans, 800 Norwegians, 500 French, 500 British and
400 Danes have been reported missing. Nobody knows exactly
how many people were swallowed up by the sea. Based on flight
logs, 20,000 Swedes were on the island of Phuket in Southern
Thailand alone when the tidal wave hit. Every day the sea
continues to spew out unidentifiable bodies.
Thailand Prime Minister says 5,300 people are still missing.
In Phuket bulletin boards were erected with photographs of
missing persons and bodies found. Tourists who lost a child
or spouse searched in growing despair among the bodies. Thai
authorities began to burn corpses regardless of their origins
in order to prevent epidemics. Thousands of bodies of Western
tourists were impossible to identify.
Thailand instructed Europeans to leave the country. Despite
the catastrophe new groups of tourists have already arrived
at the largely destroyed sites. Europe One radio reported a
group of French tourists was swimming at the beaches of
Phuket as if nothing unusual was happening. They were
unafraid to travel to the area from Northern Thailand after
the tidal wave struck.
Swedish Prime Minister Guran Peterson said this is the worse
tragedy Sweden has known in many years and affects nearly
every home. In a rare radio address King Karl the 16th
offered his condolences to the mourning families. Swedish
newspapers print photographs of children found alive for
relatives to identify. One 14-month-old Swedish baby was
found in Kao Lak, Thailand, where 4,000 people were killed.
At the hospital a dozen desperate parents checked to see
whether he might belong to them. Eventually his father, who
was lying in the same hospital, identified him. The mother is