Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Heart Goes out to Victims, Says Straw; Foreign Secretary Hears Harrowing Stories as He Meets Survivors in Phuket

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Heart Goes out to Victims, Says Straw; Foreign Secretary Hears Harrowing Stories as He Meets Survivors in Phuket

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK SAWER

JACK STRAW today told of his sorrow at the grief being suffered by British tsunami survivors he met in Thailand.

The Foreign Secretary said: "It is a dreadful tragedy for every family concerned and my heart goes out to them."

After talking to relatives of Britons still listed as missing and feared dead, he said: "You have to be straight with people and I had to say to the relatives that it may be many months before we are able to establish that the bodies are their relatives, or whether we will find their bodies at all. We are doing our very best.

"We are talking to our police teams here. It is very hard going."

During a visit to Phuket, Mr Straw said he had met British families with harrowing stories.

He said: "One family had lost three children. I'm a husband and a son, a brother and a father and you just feel desperate about the grief of people like that." He also met two women who had been swept underwater, blasted through a shop window and sucked out again before finally being washed ashore, alive but badly injured.

As the feared death toll among British backpackers and other tourists continued to rise, Mr Straw denied the latest figures had been held back or played down.

The Foreign Office has been accused of adopting a secretive approach and refusing to give a true estimate of the numbers of Britons killed. There was also criticism of Tony Blair not returning from holiday in Egypt until a week after the Boxing Day disaster.

Mr Straw said: "There has been no delay. The fact [the death toll figures] have more than doubled in the space of four days indicates the imprecision of estimates of this kind, particularly in the early stages after a disaster of this magnitude."

He said the statistics were compiled by the Metropolitan Police using standard methods.

Mr Straw said that British forensic experts involved in previous incidents such as Lockerbie, the Bali bombing and the Potters Bar and Hatfield train crashes had underlined to him the complicated nature of compiling an accurate death toll. …

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