Suffolk's tsunami toll

TEN people from Suffolk have today been confirmed as dead or missing after last month's tsunami disaster in south east Asia.But the names of the victims have not been released by the police or the Foreign Office.

TEN people from Suffolk have today been confirmed as dead or missing after last month's tsunami disaster in south east Asia.

But the names of the victims have not been released by the police or the Foreign Office.

Suffolk Chief Constable Alistair McWhirter confirmed the figure today as a senior police officer from the county flew into Phuket to help with the investigations.

Mr McWhirter has been part of a top team of chief officers helping to co-ordinate the police response to the disaster.

As yet there is no indication of when inquests will be opened into the deaths of the Suffolk victims.

The inquests of all the British victims of the tsunami are expected to be held at West London coroner's court once all the information is collected.

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A total of 249 Britons are presumed dead in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami. This number includes 53 whose bodies have been recovered.

A further 260 Britons are officially "unaccounted for" but Foreign Office staff do not know whether or not these people were actually in the tsunami-hit area.

Mr McWhirter is part of a team of top police officers from throughout the country which is drawing up lists of dead and missing people.

It is not clear whether the Suffolk victims were local residents on holiday in the area or ex-patriots who have moved abroad and whose last British address was in the county.

Suffolk police played a crucial role in co-ordinating the national police response to the tsunami disaster.

The force was notified on December 30 it had been appointed as regional co-ordinator of the police national information co-ordinating centre at the Cabinet Office in London.

Around 30 staff from Suffolk police have been working within the centre and their tasks included sending family liaison officers in the UK and abroad, selecting specialist teams to assist at foreign airports and organising officers to staff the casualty bureau at Hendon.

Pc Gary Pooley and Sgt Chris Rodda were also sent to Sri Lanka to help make arrangements for survivors and other people returning to the UK and liasing with families. They are due to return at the end of the month.

Mr McWhirter said: "They've been out there working non-stop for the past two-and-a-half weeks. They've been helping with the victim's families and working on the identification process.

"It's fantastic in the sense that we've been able to help. I'm really proud we've had the opportunity to contribute because, like so many people in Suffolk, we wanted to do whatever we could."

Today detective chief inspector John Quinton flew out to Phuket on the Thai coast to help with the relief effort there.

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