Swedish tourists arrive home from earthquake horror

"Evacuation planes" have begun bringing Swedes home from the disaster-struck region of Phuket in Thailand.

On Tuesday morning 448 passengers arrived at Arlanda in two planes, while another 355 landed at Landvetter airport near Gothenburg and 318 touched down at Malmö’s Sturup airport. 40 more were on an SAS plane which landed at Kastrup airport outside Copenhagen.

Of the passengers who arrived back in Stockholm, two were taken directly to Karolinska hospital and two families were driven to Danderyd hospital. Another was taken to the psychiatric clinic at St Göran’s hospital.

According to Svenska Dagbladet, none of those who arrived back today was seriously injured.

“Everyone who came home was of course relieved,” said SvD’s Björn Malmström. “At the same time, they all have their own stories, everyone has experienced the catastrophe at close quarters.”

The Swedish tourists arriving in Denmark were said to be missing both tickets and passports.

Aftonbladet described those who arrived back at Malmö’s Sturup airport as tired, shocked and distraught”.

“The journey was unbelievably tough, but we tried to help each other,” said Alexandra Hansson from Karlskrona.

Many had left Thailand “without bringing relatives home with them”. Among those were four children aged 5 to 12 who had come back to Sweden without their parents.

“We don’t know anything about the parents or possible siblings,” said police officer Ewa-Gun Westford. “But people from the social services have now taken charge of the four children. You could see in their eyes, as in those of many others, that they have been involved in something very terrifying.”

Priests, doctors and psychologists were on hand to help people as they got off the plane at Sturup, and the Red Cross provided warm clothes for those who had travelled home in just their bathing costumes.

Crisis groups have been set up at Arlanda, Landvetter and Kastrup airports to help passengers arriving home and their relatives.

“We have around 50-60 people, not including the police,” said Mariel Corrend Larsson at Landvetter airport. “We have airport and travel company staff, the Red Cross, Västra Götaland’s emergency teams, priests and representatives from the Norwegian Seamen’s church.”

Tommy Posli, who had just flown in to Landvetter from Phuket, told Swedish Radio about the atmosphere at the airport before they departed.

“If one person had panicked, everybody would have – it was in the air the whole time,” he said.

“Everybody stood there watching the monitors the whole time to see when the plane would go – nobody was sitting down. Everyone wanted to be the first to check in and the first out of the gate so as not to risk being left behind. It was only when the plane took off that people were able to breathe out.”

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

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet, SR