Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: As rescue workers in Khao Lak continue the gruesome task of recovering the bodies of those killed in the December 26 tsunami disaster, the death toll from Phang Nga rose overnight to a staggering 3,689 corpses – more than double the figure reported at 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

The figures were released at 8 am today by the emergency center at Phuket Provincial Hall.

In the six provinces affected, the death toll now stands at 4,510 (2,092 Thai, 2,230 foreigners and 188 of unknown nationality).A total of 9,849 were reported injured and 6,475 people are listed as missing.

The fatality figure accounts only for bodies recovered; the actual number of deaths is probably far higher, as many people are thought to have been sucked out to sea by tsunami undertow and will likely never be recovered.

Of the 3,689 bodies recovered in Phang Nga, 1,662 bodies were somehow classified as Thais and 2,027 as foreigners. Identification is becoming increasingly difficulty as bodies decompose, rescue workers say. A total of 1,272 people were reported as injured in the province, with 2,123 people listed as missing.

In Phuket, however, the number of dead has been adjusted down to 279 (151 Thais, 111 foreigners, 17 of unknown nationality) from 282 yesterday afternoon. The toll of injured stood at 1,272 and 2,123 people have been reported missing.

In Krabi, there have been 367 reported deaths (108 Thais, 88 foreigners and 171 of unknown nationality), 2,649 injured and 1,913 reported missing.

Of great concern is the number of people missing at Phi Phi Don Island, where only a handful of hotels remain standing. Most of the dozens of hotels and guest houses in the Ton Sai Bay area were located on a narrow stretch of sand between two beaches, which appears to have been hammered by the tsunami from both sides.

In December 2003, the Tourism Authority of Thailand reported over 33,000 arrivals on the island, with the average length of stay at hotels and guest houses being 2.7 days.

That  would mean that, on average, some 1,065 tourist arrived on Phi Phi Don each day. Multiplying this figure by the average length of stay, there were probably no fewer than 2,900 tourists staying overnight on Phi Phi Don when the tsunami hit, and that figure would not include the number of residents, day trippers and workers.

The number of people on the island was probably higher, given all the new hotel construction on Phi Phi over the past year, and the fact that occupancy would have been high with the New Year’s Holiday approaching.

Unfortunately, there are no figures currently available as to how many people were rescued from the Phi Phi Islands to help in estimating the actual number of missing.

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