The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Thailand plans to exhume bodies

Phang Nga (Thailand), Jan. 10 (Reuters): Thailand is to exhume hundreds buried after the Indian Ocean tsunami, restarting the arduous task of putting names to thousands of unidentified bodies, including those of the many missing foreign tourists.

The flow of aid to hundreds of thousands of survivors and homeless in Indonesia two weeks after the most widespread natural disaster in living memory was forced to pause after a helicopter crash and a powerful tremor on northern Sumatra island.

Early in the day, panic-stricken people in the devastated Indonesian city of Banda Aceh fled homes and shelters after a pre-dawn aftershock evoked memories of the huge earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the region on December 26.

The tsunami triggered by the 9.0-magnitude quake killed at least 156,000 people around the Indian Ocean, with Aceh province on Sumatra's northern tip accounting for almost all of Indonesia's 104,000 deaths.

Thailand, where hundreds of foreign tourists died, said it would have to exhume more than 600 hastily-buried bodies for fuller forensic tests. More than 2,000 of the country's 5,303 known dead have yet to be identified.

Even the most basic identification of many corpses as Thai or foreigner needed to be checked again, officials said.

Of the 2,159 unidentified people, 1,974 died in the coastal province of Phang Nga where the tsunami crumpled hotels on Khao Lak beach packed with foreign tourists and left an unknown number dead in a fishing village of several thousand people.

A senior official at the national disaster centre on Phuket island, just off Phang Nga, said the identification of the race of a dead person was often done only visually.

'From now on, when we say we can identify them, we must know their names and have some sort of document to verify their identification,' said the official, who requested anonymity.

Sweden, which lost hundreds of tourists to the tsunami, held a memorial service as it dealt with what may be its worst loss of life for 200 years. It was neutral in the two world wars.

King Carl XVI Gustaf urged adults to help by being open about the catastrophe in a country accustomed to keeping its feelings under wraps. 'Tell it to others so that the memory lives on, do not sweep it under the carpet,' he said.

A cargo ship picked up an Indonesian survivor adrift in the Indian Ocean ' the third person to be rescued that way ' and was steaming towards Malaysia to take him to dry land.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan flew over stricken areas of the Maldives to assess the damage, which officials say has changed the whole coastline of the remote island chain and will take decades to put right.

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