News

    Australians Hunt for Missing Relatives in Tsunami-Devastated Thailand

    Phil Mercer

    In Asia, as the official search for disaster survivors enters its final phase, hundreds of Australians are still desperately looking for missing relatives in tsunami-hit holiday resorts. Many simply don't know if their loved ones are alive or dead.

    So far 16 Australians are believed to have died in the December 26 tsunami disaster, although the government in Canberra has warned the final figure could be much higher.

    Among the missing is Kim Walsh, a schoolteacher from the northern Australian state of Queensland. She was on holiday in the Thai beach resort of Khao Lak near Phuket with her husband, Ian. He survived but her fate is unknown.

    Her brother Rod Emerson and cousin Terry have made the difficult journey from eastern Australia to Thailand.

    Their task is a gruesome one - sifting through the mountains of bodies in makeshift mortuaries and combing local hospitals.

    Rod Emerson, an irrigation worker, says they've come to find a very special person.

    "She's always been very, very happy, especially with Ian," he said. "Since they met and married, she's always been happy, and a very, very friendly and very loving sort of person. Seems like everyone says that about somebody, but in Kim's case, it was dead-set true. It makes you wonder why sometimes the good people are the ones that go all the time, and yeah, she didn't deserve to be - to happen like this, that's for sure."

    The Emersons were advised by the Australian government to stay away from the disaster area because of fears they could hamper the relief effort and obstruct the painstaking identification process of thousands of nameless victims.

    The Australian Ambassador to Thailand Bill Paterson has just returned from the devastated resort areas and says it's an experience he wants the Emerson cousins to avoid.

    "I've been around a number of war zones and crisis situations in my time, but I have to say that yesterday was just one of the most overwhelming experiences I've ever had," said Mr. Paterson. "And for that reason, for families who may be grieving and want to go and sort of check out these sites, I have to say, I don't think a lot can be served by doing that, and I think you might find it very disturbing."

    The ripples of pain and uncertainty surrounding the disappearance of Kim Walsh flow all the way back home.

    The schoolteacher from Cairns in Queensland is missed not only by her family but also by her colleagues.

    Stephen Savvakis, the Principal at the Trinity Bay School in Cairns, says they're praying that she will be found alive.

    "We're hoping that she's going to return to us, but of course, as every day goes past, our hopes are fading. I've had staff ring me over the holidays, 'cause we're all on school holidays at the moment, and they've been in tears," he said.

    Australia's most senior police officer, Commissioner Mick Keelty, has toured the tsunami-hit region of Thailand where most of the Australian victims perished.

    Even though Australia's sent teams of forensic examiners to help identify victims, Commissioner Keelty is warning families of missing Australians that some people may never be found.

    "We're dealing with an open disaster. It's not contained like Bali [bombing in 2002] was contained, and because it's an open disaster, some people will have disappeared simply without trace," aid Mr. Keelty.

    For Rod and his cousin Terry, their trip has ended in failure. They have found no sign of Kim Walsh, their sister and cousin. A distressing journey has come to sad end.

    They have traveled thousands of kilometers determined to find her - dead or alive. Instead, they head back to Australia, their lives changed forever.

    Rod says returning empty-handed will be difficult to explain to worried family members back home.

    "The hardest part is talking to family, to my immediate family - mum and Karen, my sister, and Nicole, my wife and my two boys," he said. "They ask you - the kids don't understand. They'll just say, "Dad, bring Kim home."

    Science may eventually provide the Emersons and many like them with the answers they need. DNA testing is being carried out to identify all the bodies, but some bodies will never be recovered.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.