More than 21,000 people are known to have died after a massive underwater earthquake sent giant tidal-waves crashing into coastlines across Southern Asia. Information is still scarce on the fate of tens of thousands of holidaying foreigners, including up to a thousand Czechs. On Monday morning Czech government officials met to coordinate the Czech Republic's aid to the disaster-stricken areas in Southern Asia, and also provide assistance to Czech nationals stranded in the areas.
For a start, the Czech state will send 10 million crowns (over 300,000 euros) to the Southeast Asian countries - that's on top of the aid the Czech Republic is providing as part of the European Union. On Monday a regular Czech Airlines flight is shipping drinking water to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, the country that suffered the highest death toll. The head of the Prime Minister's Office, Miroslav Kostelka, said that further aid will be coordinated by the Foreign Ministry which is waiting for the specific requests of those countries and the United Nations teams working there.
The Foreign Ministry estimates there could be up to a thousand Czechs in the disaster areas. No Czech national has been reported dead. There are several injuries reported but the information has not been confirmed. Around 300 hundred people have not yet contacted their families back in the Czech Republic, but Czech embassies and consulates in those countries are busy collecting information. A special consular official will arrive in Colombo on Monday's Czech Airlines flight and another one is flying in from Delhi to assist the Czech nationals in Sri Lanka and help them get back home. Also the Foreign Ministry is sending one person to the Maldives.
In case some Czechs who wish to return home do not fit on regular flights, there are Czech military specials standing by to airlift them home. Mr Kostelka also said that medical personnel and psychologists are ready to help the returning victims right on the planes.
The Foreign Ministry has opened special hotlines which the families of people who are in the areas can call to get the latest information. By Monday morning around 300 hundred people had called these lines and enquired about roughly the same number of people that were thought to be in those countries but were still unaccounted for. But as the deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Svoboda said this list is getting shorter as Czech embassies and consulates in the areas are working to find those Czechs. He also emphasised that the Czech Foreign Ministry strongly recommends that people should not travel to the countries hit by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami waves.
Foreign Ministry info lines: +420 22418 1111, +420 22418 2425, +420 22418 2254, +420 22418 2985.
Interior Ministry hotlines providing psychological counselling: +420 974 833 235, +420 974 832 672, +420 603 190 617.
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