Thousands of Europeans among dead in disaster

Distant tragedy resonates as tourists fail to return

Asia Disaster

December 31, 2004|By Tom Hundley | Tom Hundley,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

LONDON - The Indian Ocean tsunamis that have wrought such awesome destruction upon the poorest nations of Asia also hit hard in wealthy Europe.

More than 100 British tourists are feared dead, and the number is expected to climb. The official British government toll stood at 28 yesterday, but authorities in Thailand confirmed 43 dead Britons there, and British Ambassador David Fall said hundreds were missing.

Among Swedes, 1,500 people were reported missing, including more than 400 children.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told his nation that at least 1,000 Germans were missing, and hope that they would be found alive was fading.

The beach resorts of Thailand and Sri Lanka are popular holiday destinations for many northern Europeans. An estimated 20,000 Scandinavian tourists were in Thailand when the tsunami hit.

Newspapers and television broadcasts across Europe have been filled with stories of wrenching loss and heroic recovery.

The faraway tragedy was felt in Carbis Bay, a small village on England's Cornish coast where Sharon Howard, 37, a single mother, lived with her two sons.

On Christmas Day, Howard called her parents from a Thai resort to announce that she and her companion of five years, David Page, were planning to wed. The couple were on vacation with Howard's sons, Mason, 8, and Taylor, 6.

A day later, Howard was in the hospital with serious head injuries. Her younger son was dead. The older son and her fiance are presumed dead.

The tragedy has fallen heavily on Britain's large South Asian immigrant community. Mohammed Samsudena, 36, who works in a London gas station, says he has all but given up hope for about 50 relatives who live in the Sri Lankan town of Hambantota. Nearly every house in the town was destroyed.

Collection boxes have appeared in thousands of small businesses across Britain.

Britain has opened its heart and its purse. By yesterday morning, people had pledged more than $47 million to British charities.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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