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Tragedy touches maker of Gandhi
- Richard Attenborough loses daughter and granddaughter at Phuket

London, Dec. 29: Lord Richard Attenborough, who is respected throughout the Indian diaspora as the director of the film Gandhi, announced with deep regret yesterday that three members of his family, including his daughter Jane and 14-year-old granddaughter Lucy had died on the Thai island of Phuket in the tsunami disaster.

Lucy was at the resort with her 17-year-old sister Alice, brother Sam and her parents Jane and Michael Holland.

The third member of the group to perish was Michael's mother Jane Holland, who had the same name as her daughter-in-law.

Among Attenborough's friends who have reacted with shock and disbelief to the tragedy are the Indian actor, Saeed Jaffrey, and his wife Jennifer, a casting agent.

'I feel devastated that God has chosen to punish him in such a way,' Jaffrey told The Telegraph. 'I wanted to ring him but what could I say' I will write to him.'

Jaffrey, who played Sardar Patel in the Oscar-winning Gandhi, said he and his wife celebrated Attenborough's 80th birthday last year. 'It took him 30 years to make Gandhi but he has put Gandhi and India on the world map,' commented Jaffrey. 'He is such a lovely man. The best directors are those who have been actors themselves. He said to Ben Kingsley (who played Gandhi), 'Ben darling, it doesn't matter if it's the 13th take. I won't say 'Cut' until you are satisfied and I am satisfied'.'

Jennifer said: 'We see quite a lot of each other. And we always exchange Christmas cards. This is so terrible just when we thought he had had such a lovely year.'

A statement issued last night on behalf of Lord Attenborough by Diana Hawkins, a colleague and family friend, read: 'Lord (Richard) Attenborough and his wife, Sheila, have lost three members of their immediate family in the tidal wave disaster that hit the beaches of Thailand on Boxing Day morning. Their elder daughter, Jane, is missing, as is her mother-in-law, Jane Holland.'

The statement went on: 'The Attenboroughs' granddaughter, Lucy, 14, died at the scene. Another granddaughter, Alice, 17, is now being treated in hospital. Two members of the family group survived unscathed. They are the Attenboroughs' son-in-law, Michael Holland, and eldest grandson, Sam. The Holland family left their London home last week for a two-week holiday at the Thai beach resort.'

The statement added: 'Lord Attenborough, 81, his wife, other daughter, Charlotte, and son, Michael, together with their families, ask that the news media respect their need for privacy at this terrible time. None has anything further to add.'

The estimate of Britons feared dead has been revised upwards from 17 yesterday to 50 this morning by the British authorities.

Honeymooners Christopher and Gaynor Mullen from Richmond, Surrey, have not been in contact with their parents since Christmas morning, when they said simply they were 'on a beach' in Thailand.

Piers Simon, 33, a garden designer, is missing after he was swept out to sea when a wave hit the cafe he was in on the Thai island of Phi Phi.

The dead also include a six-year-old boy, Taylor Howard, from St Ives in Cornwall, who was on holiday in Thailand with his brother Mason, aged eight, his mother Sharon, 37, and her boyfriend David Page, 44. Page and Mason are missing, presumed dead, but the youngsters' mother was apparently uninjured when the deadly waves hit Thailand on Sunday.

The British government today pledged '15 million for the massive aid effort to help survivors.

Secretary of state for international development Hilary Benn said the money was 'the first phase' of the UK's commitment to helping the afflicted countries.

Asked if he thought the government should donate more money, he replied: 'It is very hard to estimate what the final cost of this terrible catastrophe which has befallen will be. We are in the emergency relief phase and what people need now is they need water, they need shelter, they need cooking materials, medical supplies, and that's what we're working, as part of a huge international effort, to deliver to people on the ground.'

In much of the comment and analysis on radio and television, India is taking a back seat ' despite the high death toll ' because it is felt that the Indian authorities are able to look after their own and do not require outside help. However, the Indian High Commission in London is appealing for donations to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

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