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South Africa to Beef Up Relief Efforts for Earthquake Victims

South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa says an inter-ministerial disaster management team will meet Monday to co-ordinate his country’s relief efforts in African and Southern Asian countries affected by last week’s earthquakes. He told VOA reporter William Eagle that so far, only Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia have made official appeals for aid. He says among the 12 South African tourists still missing are two in Myanmar and 10 in Thailand.

In some parts of the region, authorities have burned and buried bodies in mass graves as a means of preventing disease. Mr. Mamoepa says he is not concerned that any unidentified South African tourists would be among those buried. He said government officials in the region have assured him that the bodies of any dead foreigners will be refrigerated until they can be identified and shipped home; he said the South African government, in turn, is supplying regional officials with DNA evidence of the missing. Mr.Mamwoepa also denies criticism by some returning survivors – and by the opposition Democratic Alliance – that the South African consulate in Thailand was slow to help stranded South African citizens. He said the ambassador to Thailand, Buyi Pheto, was on hand to help the survivors.