Text size

At least 10 Israelis were injured in Thailand yesterday by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami waves that killed thousands in six countries in Southeast Asia, the Foreign Ministry reported. At least 11,000 deaths had been reported by press time, and the toll was still rising rapidly.

An additional 20 Israelis are feared missing in Thailand, acting Israeli ambassador to Thailand Shlomi Kaufman told Channel 2 television last night. A further 13 Israelis are said to be missing in India.

Of the 10 Israelis known to be injured, seven - Esther Paz, Yaron Weiss, Shabtai Majer, Esther Ilam, Moshe Ilam, Sarah Goren and Aharon Levy - were admitted to hospitals in Phuket. Some were discharged last night, while others were transferred to hospitals in Bangkok.

A total of some 1,500 Israelis known to be traveling in Southeast Asia had not yet made contact with Israel by last night, Foreign Ministry officials said.

The director of the Foreign Ministry's consular division, Menashe Bar-On, said orders had been issued to Israeli missions in Southeast Asia to assist in tracking down Israeli citizens.

On India's Andaman Island, searches were continuing last night for a group of at least 13 Israeli travelers who had yet to make contact with their families by last night, the Foreign Ministry said. Some 40-60 Israelis were reported to be on the island.

"There could be casualties there, or everything could be okay," said Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, a Foreign Ministry deputy director general. "The Indian authorities are unable to make contact with the island, and our embassy is trying to get information on the location."

Since it has been difficult to get phone calls through to the area, the Foreign Ministry has set up satellite phones in an attempt to connect travelers with their relatives back home, said the ministry's director general, Ron Prosor.

A Foreign Ministry team may be sent to the area today.

Galia Mishal, 21, is one of the Israelis missing on Andaman Island, after leaving Thursday for a month-long trip to the area.

Her father, Edmond, spent all of yesterday browsing and searching Internet sites for more details on the area to which his daughter had traveled, noting he had spent the entire day with a great sense of trepidation hanging over him.

"The fear is huge - the sense of helplessness, the fact that I can't do anything is a very difficult feeling," he said. "I have no other way of getting more information, and the Indian officials don't know how to help because there is simply no communication with the islands. I am waiting for news."

Galia left for India in a group of 18 Israelis, none of whom have made contact with their families or Israeli officials yet.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy in Thailand has set up a "frontline command room" that is overseeing the rescue operations and collating information on the Israeli travelers in the area.

According to acting ambassador Kaufman, "It takes the travelers some time to make contact, some of them because of technical difficulties, and some due to a lack of awareness of what is happening. We are calling on all the travelers to inform us or their families that they are well."

Avishai Levy, an Israeli tour guide, told of his experience yesterday. "We were sailing on a boat when we felt the sea empty of its water," he said. "The boat simply stopped dead in the sand - and then the waves came. Fortunately, we chose yesterday to head east to a protected lagoon, and that's how we were saved."

Israeli aid

The Foreign Ministry yesterday sent aid - baby food and medicines - worth some $100,000 to the affected countries. In addition, an Israeli medical team was dispatched to Sri Lanka, the country hardest hit by the disaster.

Israel has also offered its assistance to India. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz passed on the offer to Indian authorities through Israel's military attache Colonel Moshe Krawitz.

Mofaz offered aid of two kinds - a search and rescue team from the Home Front Command, as well as consignments of food and medicines. Indian authorities said they would respond to the offer today.

In absence of an immediate response, Israeli officials believe that India does not urgently need additional rescue teams.