Hope fades for missing Swedes

After searching 120 meeting points, including 77 hospitals, in southern Thailand, the man leading the Swedish rescue team has said that he does not expect any more Swedes to be found alive there.

“We have turned every stone – we owe that to the relatives,” said Göran Schnell, head of the Swedish Rescue Services Agency operation in Thailand.

He told Wednesday’s Aftonbladet that he understood that families of those still missing would continue to hope that they would be found. But he said that he did not want to raise people’s expectations.

“Many have been dragged out to sea, others lie under one or two metres of sand,” said Schnell. “We must be aware of the fact that this has become a grave for many Swedes.”

Precisely how many, though, is still unclear.

At the beginning of last week the foreign office reported that 702 Swedes were confirmed missing and the whereabouts of another 1,201 was unclear. On Friday, lists distributed by the police contained 637 names.

Then on Wednesday, Aftonbladet revealed that “the police have collected dental cards, DNA, hair strands and other details from relatives of 1,650 people feared missing”. The information will be sent to the Swedish ID Commission in Thailand.

But even that figure is not thought to be reliable. When police tried to collect identification material for 307 people in southern Sweden they discovered that 90 of them were alive and well. Some of them, said to Aftonbladet, had never even been to Thailand.

“I can’t make any estimate of how many of the 1,650 are really missing, but the number will fall,” said Tord Mordin, chief analyst at the National Criminal Investigation Department.

Following the Norwegian government’s decision to make public the list of their citizens who were missing following the tsunami, there have been demands for the Swedish government, and now police, to do the same.

However, on Wednesday Sweden’s administrative court of appeal refused a request for access to the list from news agency TT, saying that either the people themselves or relatives could suffer from their names being made public.

“This is about protecting the affected people’s personal integrity and we had no hesitation about the decision,” said the court’s Jan Nordlund.

TT’s editor-in-chief, Mats Johansson, said that TT will request permission to take the case to the supreme administrative court.

“The government’s and police’s work with the lists is full of question marks and there is a great need for an investigation,” he said. “But this decision limits the possibilities.”

Meanwhile, the memorials continued with a minute’s silence in schools throughout Sweden in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the catastrophe.

The minister for schools, Ibrahim Baylan, attended a ceremony at Skuru school in Nacka and asked the students to help grieving friends.

“At this hard time I urge all Swedish children and young people to be even better friends than usual and to be there for each other,” he said.

Nacka has been badly affected by the disaster and the head of Skuru school, Ulf Lundholm, told Dagens Nyheter that as well as continuing with every day life it is important to learn from what has happened.

“I hope that we will show more solidarity with the world around us and become more engaged with the schoolchildren and countries which are not as fortunate as we are,” he said.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet