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Germany

Fischer: Finding the Missing is Top Priority

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Sunday voiced concern about the fate of thousands of people missing after the Indian Ocean tsunami crashed into southwestern Thailand two weeks ago.

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Fischer (center) met a German team at a Thai makeshift morgue

"Now the first thing we need to know about is the missing people," Fischer said after visiting the region hit by the waves that killed more than 5,300 people.

Sixty Germans have been confirmed dead and more than 700 are still missing in the disaster, mainly in Thailand's southern beach resorts.

Thai authorities on Sunday dramatically increased the number of corpses whose nationality could not be determined, casting doubt on nearly 2,000 bodies, most of which had previously been identified as Thai or foreign.

The number of foreigners believed dead is 1,329, and more than 1,100 foreigners are still missing in Thailand.

Fischer spoke after travelling by helicopter to the Yanyao temple in Phang Nga province, which suffered the vast majority of casualties.

Joschka Fischer in Puket

Fischer attended a memorial service on Phuket Island

After the disaster, the Buddhist temple was transformed into a makeshift morgue housing 1,800 bodies, and is the scene of an enormous international forensics effort to identify hundreds of bodies.

Fischer later left Phuket for Jakarta, and was due to visit Colombo on Monday. Germany has offered to lead efforts to help set up an alert system for the Indian Ocean within three years, relying on the use of e-mails and mobile phone text messages.

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