The Nation

6 Thais missing after quake

Families of nursing graduates feel the pain, fearing the worst as they anxiously await news from Christchurch; Thai government offers Bt2.3 million in assistance to New Zealand; holding talks to dispatch relief supplies

Pensioner Ruangyut Intarang-koon was going through the most painful wait of his life yesterday as all efforts to locate his youngest daughter in earthquake-hit Christchurch were proving fruitless as of press time. "We have tried to contact her, but we cannot reach her or any of her friends," the anxious father said from his hometown in Buri Ram. "We are so worried about her."She is one of six Thai students missing in Christchurch, Thailand's ambassador to New Zealand Noppadon Theppitak confirmed yesterday.Ruangyut feels there is only a 50 per cent chance that his daughter Thanida is alive. Thanida, 36, was studying in Christchurch under a scholarship when the 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the city - New Zealand's second largest - on Tuesday, causing massive casualties.Said Ruangyut: "The best I can do now is to keep abreast of the news and be ready to pack my bags for a trip to Christchurch if there's any news about my daughter." Thanida had in fact called him on Monday, saying that her course was almost over but she planned to stay on in New Zealand to work. Thanida graduated from Chiang Mai University with a degree in nursing. She used to work at Bumrungrad Hospital and then took a course in France, before heading to Christ-church.Her family contacted the Thai Embassy in New Zealand but was told it could not locate her. Thanida was among a batch of nurses sent to New Zealand for an advanced course and to take a test to become a certified medical worker there."New Zealand has a shortage of nurses so we sent them there," Providence Education Group director Tatchaporn Nimsakulthamrong said yesterday. She said she could not confirm whether the students from her institute were at the CTV building when the earthquake hit at lunchtime. "But they usually stay in the class at that time," Tatchaporn said. She said the missing Thais were from Chiang Rai, Buri Ram, Nakhon Pathom and Bangkok. "We are in contact with the Thai Embassy there because we want to give up-to-date information to the families of those missing," Tatchaporn said. She said her institute had also contacted the Prime Minister's Office, urging the government to send a rescue team to the area to search for victims. Her institute has been able to locate only 10 of the nurses it had sent to Christchurch."We were actually going to send 10 more nursing assistants there. But we will now suspend the plan until the situation there returns to normal," Tatchaporn said.The other students missing besides Thanida are Wanphen (Nok) Pree-naklang, Pimporn (Meaw) Liangchua, Siriphan (Fon) Wongkulkarn, Jitra (Ta) Visuthithadapong, Haruetaya (Jeab) Luangtheerasakul. Hotline 001 64 214 19300 has been established for Thais in New Zealand. The ambassador's phone number is 001 64 214 03570.The Thai government will donate Bt2.3 million to New Zealand to help the earthquake victims, according to Thani Thongphakdi, director-general of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry spokesperson.Meanwhile, the Thai government is holding discussions with New Zealand about providing more assistance and to dispatch relief supplies.

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