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British Ambassador assesses damage in Phuket -

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British Ambassador assesses damage in Phuket

Reporter: Emma Alberici

EMMA ALBERICI: The British Ambassador to Thailand, David Fall, arrived in Phuket last night with a
nine-strong team of officers to aid the rescue operation. I spoke to him a short time ago, before
problems with communications stopped the interview. David Fall, describe for us what you saw upon
arriving in Phuket last night.

DAVID FALL (BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THAILAND): Well, not a great deal, because it was in the middle
of the night. It was the early hours of the morning, so we weren't able to go out to the scene of
the tidal wave, but we did go around the hospitals, and we went to the Town Hall, where the Thai
authorities have been gathering in people from all over the affected parts of the island. It was
very orderly. In the Town Hall, people were sleeping on the verandahs, and in the hospitals, people
were sleeping in the corridors as well, but there was no sense of crowding, there was no sense of
panic. It was all done in a very, very orderly fashion.

EMMA ALBERICI: So when you woke this morning, what did you see?

DAVID FALL: Well, I went down to the affected area this morning, and it really is quite a narrow
strip. It's about 300 to 400 yards on the western coast which is full of wreckage and cars piled on
top of one another and flotsam and jetsam everywhere, but beyond that 400 yards point, life goes on
as normal, and the tourists are out and about, and they're moving down and taking photographs of
the wrecked part. It's quite surreal. But the wave hit with such force that people were killed and
swept out to sea who happened to be in the unfortunate position of being right by the sea at the
wrong moment.

EMMA ALBERICI: Now, are all Britons accounted for, or are there some still missing?

DAVID FALL: Well, we can't say that all are accounted for, because we just don't know how many are
here. We get three quarters of a million Britons visiting Thailand every year, and about 10 per
cent of them go down to Phuket, and this is the most popular time of the year for them. So we'll
have thousands of people here, and we just don't know, at the moment, how many are missing or
injured or dead. We believe that there are seven reported British deaths, reported by their
relatives who are also on the island, and we're compiling numbers of people who are injured and in
hospital here. Others are being evacuated out by the Thai authorities back to Bangkok.

EMMA ALBERICI: You say you've been visiting the hospitals. Can you tell us, how are the injured

DAVID FALL: Well, the ones that I met last night - and of course it was the middle of the night, so
many them were sleeping, but some of them were awake and very happy to talk - they were, of course,
relieved to be alive, most of them. Some of them had had amazing experiences and really escaped
death by minutes or by inches. Some people had ridden out the wave in boats; others had raced the
wave in, they were on fast boats; others had been swept along and managed to cling onto something
and cling onto their families, and they were lucky to be alive. Most were actually, given the
circumstances - and they were horrific circumstances - were very relaxed.

EMMA ALBERICI: And so what is your mission there, and how long do you intend to stay?

DAVID FALL: Well, we don't know how long we're going to be here for. We're an emergency operation
here. We're the eyes and ears of our embassy in Bangkok and of the British Government back in
London, giving back, sending back reports on what the situation actually is in this area, what the
latest casualty figures are...

(Phone line cuts out)

EMMA ALBERICI: That was David Fall, the British Ambassador to Thailand. We did approach the
Australian consular officials. However, they were not available for an interview.