25 Malaysian Tourists Missing, Families Leaving Chengdu
By Tham Choy Lin
BEIJING, May 14 (Bernama) -- A group of 26 elderly Malaysian tourists has been missing since Monday's devastating earthquake that hit south-western Sichuan province as the death toll rises to nearly 15,000 and thousands reported buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings and landslides.
Several Malaysian families with young children in Chengdu have made plans to go home due to fears of water shortage and repeated aftershocks in the provincial capital.
While the fate of the group is still not known, there have been no reports of Malaysian casualties, said Malaysian Consul-General in Kunming Ayauf Bachi.
The consulate has sought the help of Sichuan local government to trace the Malaysians whose last known stop was in Maoxian, less than 50km from the epicentre of the quake in Wenchuan county.
"The Chinese authorities formed a special team this morning to look for foreign tourists. We are working with them on this," he told Bernama.
He said the consulate was contacted Tuesday evening by Ipoh-based Golden Dragon Tours which had arranged the trip for the group of mostly women, half of whom were elderly.
The Chengdu local agent handling the tour said the agency had alerted tourism and communications authorities in Aba county near Miaoxian after it was unable to contact its tourist guide accompanying the group.
"The last contact we had was around 1.30pm when the tourist guide called to say they were stopping for lunch at the Guibinlou restaurant in Maoxian. After the quake, we called the guide but was unable to get in touch until now," said Zhang Wenxia of Chengdu Overseas Tourist Corporation.
She said the Malaysians with a local driver and tourist guide were travelling in a 39-seat coach from Jiuzhaigou and had stopped in Maoxian for lunch before their next destination, Dujiangyan, which was badly affected by the quake.
Zhang said most of the tourists were elderly people, with one over 90 and several in their seventies or eighties.
Aftershocks were still felt in Chengdu, the provincial capital Wednesday, and many people left their high floor dwellings to sleep in the open or bunk in with friends in apartments closer to the ground.
With the Chengdu Airport reopened on Monday night, large crowds were at the airport to leave the city, according to Malaysians there.
Three Malaysian families would be going home Thursday via Bangkok as there are no direct flights to Malaysia after the Chengdu sector was dropped by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) more than a year ago.
"My wife and three young children are going home tomorrow and two other families will also be departing as a precaution. At work, we have to run out of the building each time there is a tremor," said banker Kenny Lim who is also vice-chairman of the Malaysian Association of Sichuan.
Association chairman David Siow said there were concerns of bottled water shortage because a key supplier was in Dujiangyan, one of the worst-hit by the quake.
"It is turning difficult here, the was another big tremor in the morning. There are cracks on the walls of my condo and I am now sleeping in my second floor office," he said.
Also headed for home are two Malaysians who escaped the calamity in Mianyang. Muhammad Yazli Mohd Rosli and Benjamin Gau who work with the Hrosen Engineering Sdn Bhd in Shah Alam.
They had made a stopover to inspect a project with PetroChina and were in their hotel when the quake struck on Monday afternoon.
"Lucky for us, we were living in a new area where not many buildings collapsed. I was shocked to know Mianyang was so badly hit. Throughout the first night, there were sirens from police cars and ambulances," said Muhammad Yazli, a survey engineer.
In Jiuzhagou on the northern border of Sichuan, Malaysian Yap Sin Fatt, a golf superintendent who is working on a resort project there, had also made plans to fly back to Chengdu on Saturday with a Malaysian couple who had cut short their holiday there.
"We felt an aftershock again just now in the evening. I am in Nanping county of Jiuzhaigou now. We have been outside sleeping in camps and cars for two days," he added.