Fears for Dozens of Israelis in Southeast Asia

As the number of casualties in the Southeast Asia earthquake-tsunami zone continues to climb to monstrous figures, 61 Israelis have still not made contact with their families.

, | updated: 08:24

The number of missing Israelis had been about 150 until today (Wednesday), when contact was finally made with many of them. Many of the missing were known to have been in hard-hit tsunami areas, in Sri Lanka and the Thai island of Phuket.

All the Israelis in the stricken Andaman Islands have been located. A large group of Israelis who were found vacationing there said they barely felt the earthquake, and did not know what all the fuss was about.

Another group of Israelis made contact from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, saying they were without money, food, or a way to get out of the country. Foreign Ministry sources said they would be rescued today - and in fact an El Al plane will depart for Sri Lanka this evening for that purpose.

Thailand reported officially this morning that two Israelis had been killed, while the Foreign Ministry's consul in Thailand, Yaakov Dvir, is looking into reports of five Israeli fatalities. Dvir said that assuming that some Israelis have been killed, "it will be a major operation to identify them among the many thousands of bodies."

An Israeli shipment of 82 tons of food and equipment for Sri Lanka landed in Colombo late Wednesday morning (Israel time).

As the stricken countries rush to bury victims in mass graves to ward off the spread of disease, the fear among Israelis is that their loved ones might be buried anonymously together with them. Thailand has decided to take DNA samples and photographs before burial, to facilitate later identification.

Other countries are also awaiting news on their nationals. Sweden, for instance, reported 1,500 missing, Norway has no news on 800 of its citizens, and France is missing some 200.

Israeli rescue teams, including Zaka personnel whose specialty is identifying and recovering bodies, have set off for southeast Asia, in a rush job to find Israelis - dead or alive - before all hope of locating them is lost. Thailand has said it would take DNA samples of all bodies before burying them.

Some Israelis set off on their own for Thailand to find their loved ones or friends, and in fact managed to find 30 of them.

Several flights arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport from Thailand over the night, bringing Israelis from Southeast Asia to expectant and joyful families. Among the arrivals were at least two injured people.

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