Following desperate calls from doctors and travel companies in Thailand, the Swedish government has given the go-ahead for ambulance planes to be sent to the area to bring home the most seriously injured Swedes.
Dagens Nyheter reported that on Tuesday the Swedish Aviation Authority was told by the foreign office to look into the possibility of using former war-ready facilities to evacuate the wounded, and by Wednesday lunchtime the “technical difficulties had been solved”.
According to the foreign office press department two planes, each with space for 24 stretchers and 35 seated passengers, will land in Phuket on Thursday.
However, the response is seen by many as being too little, too late. Travel company Fritidsresor said that the two ambulance planes would not be enough and that many Swedes left in Thailand could die of their injuries.
“There is a very great risk that people will die at the airport in Phuket,” said Lottie Knutsson, the information director at Fritidsresor.
“The situation is catastrophic and we need transport for hundreds of stretchers to Sweden. The authorities have evacuated Khao Lak and other affected areas and everyone has been sent straight to the airport. There are now thousands of travellers with open wounds, bloody and in shock.”
Göran Gårdö, the chief executive of Britannia Airways, told Svenska Dagbladet that the company informed the government of the need for ambulance planes more than two days ago.
“I think this has taken too long – they should have hit the emergency button a long time ago,” he said.
At the airport in Phuket, Sweden’s newspapers reported scenes of confusion – and anger at the apparent lack of Swedish representation on the ground.
“It’s chaos – many badly injured people are going back and forth and everyone wants to get out of there as soon as possible,” said 28 year old Marie Hellberg.
She told Aftonbladet that she had heard that there would be staff from the embassy and consulate at the airport, and that they would help Swedes get on the free flights to Bangkok.
“But there isn’t one Swedish representative so far as the eye can see. There is no help at all,” she said. “There are people from all the other countries – but nobody from Sweden.”