Irish families travel to Thailand to search for relatives

 

The families of three Irish victims of the Asian tsunami were today searching for any trace of them in Thailand.

There are grave concerns for five of around 20 Irish people, who are unaccounted for, but were believed to be travelling or living in the area as the tragedy struck.

The Irish Ambassador to Thailand, Mr Dan Mulhall said: "Looking at the figures for other countries, it would be miraculous if we managed to escape without fatalities."

Three families have flown to the stricken regions to search for a sighting of Ms Eilis Finnegan (27), a flight attendant from Ballyfermot in Dublin, Ms Lucy Coyle (29) from Killiney in Dublin and another unnamed man.

A brother of Ms Coyle's boyfriend Mr Sean Sweetman has also gone to look for the pair.

Ms Finnegan's boyfriend Mr Barry Murphy (29), survived the tidal wave in one of the worst affected areas around Phuket in Thailand and is searching for her. Her brother Robert has said his family were "running out of things to hold onto."

The third relative to travel to the region is believed to be Mr Jim Murphy the father of 23-year-old Mr Michael Murphy from Ballyconiger in Co Wexford. He had been travelling in one of the badly hit areas in Thailand and has not made contact since last weekend.

Mr Barry Murphy said his last memory of Ms Finnegan was a joyful one of laughing and joking near the beach on Phi Phi island. Mr Murphy said as they were running from the waves he picked up a boy of about four to save him and Ms Finnegan had been running ahead of him before he went under.

"I went around shouting Eilis's name, calling her. As it did other people popped up, crying, looking for help and their friends," he said as he spoke of the aftermath of the devastation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed there are no Irish deaths as of this time but there were five "priority" cases.

Both the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Ahern and Mr Mulhall have said that concerns were growing every day that goes by where people have not received contact.

About 830 Irish people who were in the disaster zone at the time the tsunamis struck have been accounted for.

The Irish public has raised over €7 million in aid since the disaster on St Stephen's Day.

Mr John O'Shea from Goal has appealed for any nurses, doctors, engineers or logistics people to volunteer to help in the aftermath. Mr O'Shea has asked for a collection for the disaster funds to be held among players and spectators at every sporting event being held next weekend. The Government is donating €10 million, the Irish Red Cross has raised over €3 million, while Concern has reported contributions of over €1.3 million to its appeal.

PA