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"200 Swedes could be dead" after Asian earthquake

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14:28 CET+01:00

While the Swedish foreign office is still refusing to speculate on how many Swedes have died in the Thai holiday resorts devastated by Sunday's earthquake and tidal waves, Tuesday's Expressen has reported that "several hundred Swedes" are among the dead.

The paper said that its information comes from "political sources and representatives on the scene in Asia" and that "the horrible truth as so far been concealed by the government - which wants to avoid national panic at any cost".

Officials at the Swedish foreign office are focusing on the people who are still missing. On Monday that figure stood at over 2,000 but during the night My Travel, one of the largest Swedish travel companies operating in Thailand, managed to contact 500 of its guests.

However, over 1,500 Swedes are still missing. My Travel is trying to find another 500 people in the Phuket area. Fritidsresor, another tour operator, has so far not been able to contact 600 of its 2,800 guests in the same area, while Apollo is missing up to 550 people.

Early on Tuesday morning there were reports that of well over 1,000 people dead in Thailand, 700 were tourists in Khao Lak - a popular resort among Scandinavian visitors. According to Svenska Dagbladet, that number is expected to rise.

Sweden's ambassador to Thailand, Jonas Hafström, visited Khao Lak on Monday and described the carnage to news agency TT.

"Along a stretch of 20 km on both sides of Khao Lak it's more or less destroyed from the beach and 500 metres up," he said. "There is a powerful smell of death."

He added that he had not seen any Swedish people who had died and said that as many Swedes as possible were being evacuated from Khao Lak to Phuket airport, and then home or to Bangkok where there are better-equipped hospitals.

Part of the problem for the foreign ministry officials trying to assess the numbers of Swedish people still missing is that many are holidaying in Thailand independently of any tour companies. Hospitals in the Phuket area alone have reported having treated up to 150 Swedes.

"It's certain that Swedes have died," said the foreign office's chief press officer Nina Ersman.

"To come up with any figures today is meaningless," she continued. "We have an identification team on the way. Relatives must be informed. We're not even close to having a comprehensive list. We're not going to be able to give any figures today or even tomorrow."

But according to Expressen, politicians and civil servants were discussing likely numbers through the night.

"There are going to be at least 200 Swedes who have died," a "political source" told Expressen. "New reports are coming in all the time."

For a list of Sweden's emergency numbers and internet links concerning the Asian earthquake click here.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, TT

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