aircraft returns nearly empty as two more jets fly
out, by Cynthia Banham - 30th Dec 04
The Sydney Morning Herald)
A Virgin Blue aircraft sent to
Phuket to pick up stranded Australians was due
to arrive home last night with only 14 passengers
Qantas has dispatched two aircraft, one to Phuket
and one to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, to bring
back travellers wanting to leave.
Federal Government announced a package to help
Australians pay for funeral costs and medical
costs not covered by insurance policies, as well
as to cover domestic travel costs to visit injured
addition, the Government is arranging for Centrelink
staff to be posted at airports in Australia to
provide travellers arriving back from the tsunami-affected
region with counselling services.
number of Centrelink social workers have already
been deployed to Thailand, where they are providing
on-the-ground services to traumatised Australians.
Virgin Blue spokesman said that there was a small
number of travellers on board the flight from
Phuket, which was offered by the airline at no
cost, because some people who had previously said
they wanted to return home had decided to stay
or to go to Bangkok.
had already caught commercial flights out of the
devastated resort area.
Government has arranged for Centrelink to provide
onward flights - and if required overnight accommodation
- at no charge for passengers needing to travel
beyond Darwin and Melbourne, where the Virgin
Blue flight was due to stop.
aircraft had taken a 20-person medical team and
two Australian Federal Police disaster identification
teams to Phuket. They were led by Australia's
new ambassador to Thailand, Bill Paterson.
also sent a 767 aircraft to Phuket yesterday to
bring home Australians. The 225-person capacity
aircraft was due to arrive in Sydney before 8am
second aircraft was sent to Male in the Maldives
and on to Colombo in Sri Lanka carrying 20 medical
officers from AusAID and nine pallets of medical
equipment for the devastated countries.
747 will transport back to Australia any people
wishing to leave either of the two countries,
a spokesman for Qantas said.
is due back in Sydney at 5pm tomorrow.
an estimated 8000 Australians believed to have
been travelling in the tsunami-affected areas
and only 3000 accounted for, the Government has
deployed a total of 60 extra consular officials
to the region, most of them to Thailand.
officials are helping tourists obtain medical
treatment and emergency shelter, replace lost
travel documents and repatriate the remains of
Sydney Morning Herald