Over 150 Czechs missing after tsunami disaster, up to seven feared dead

India, photo: CTK

As the full scale of the Indian Ocean disaster unfolds, there is still no information about the whereabouts of over 150 Czechs. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is dispatching humanitarian aid to the region and Czech charities have started public collections.

India,  photo: CTK
According to the Foreign Ministry there are still over 150 Czechs thought to have been in the region at the time of the tsunami who have not contacted their relatives or the local Czech embassies. Although reports of Czech casualties have appeared in the Thai press, the Czech Republic's Ambassador to Thailand, Jiri Sitler, says no deaths have been confirmed.

"The information is false. The Nation newspaper says it got the information from us, it is not true. Fortunately, there are no fatalities confirmed among Czech nationals. But there are a number of people missing, those are serious cases, and also there are three injured people in Thai hospitals."

One of the three injured Czechs, he mentioned, is supermodel Petra Nemcova, a 2003 cover girl for Sports Illustrated magazine's swimsuit edition, who suffered a broken pelvis. Her British boyfriend, a fashion photographer, was swept out to sea and is missing but presumed dead. Another two seriously injured Czechs are in hospitals in Sri Lanka.

According to latest information, there is a strong suspicion that six or seven Czechs did not survive the tidal waves. But by midday on Thursday, nothing had been confirmed. The serious cases, are, for example, people who are known to have been on the beaches when the tsunami struck. As for the 152 Czech nationals unaccounted for, authorities expect the majority of them just have not had a chance to contact anyone because of broken phone lines and blocked roads.

Humanitarian aid for to the affected region,  photo: CTK
The Czech government has pledged to donate 10 million crowns in immediate assistance. At the moment, planes from the national carrier, Czech Airlines, are shipping bottled water there, which is the most frequent requirement. Also a Czech Army special is leaving on Thursday for Indonesia with 10 tonnes of material aid. There are two Czech medical doctors in Sri Lanka who are treating injuries and infections. The doctors are helping both injured Czech tourists and locals and will later be replaced by two surgeons. A mobile children's hospital will also be sent to Sri Lanka, operated by an experienced rescue team from the town of Liberec.

Several aid organisations have opened accounts for the disaster, such as Adra, Caritas Czech Republic, the People in Need Organisation or the Czech Committee of the UNICEF and they say the money is adding up in the banks.