THE WORLD MOURNS MANY THOUNSANDS OF VICTIMS OF ONE OF THE WORST DISASTERS IN THE WORLD HISTORY
Thai missing now 'presumed dead'
Relatives are still searching for their loved ones
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said nearly all the 6,000 people still missing after Sunday's tsunamis probably died in the disaster.
"There are many people listed as missing, and we think that 80% of them are feared dead," he told reporters.
Thai and foreign rescue teams are still hunting for survivors.
But according to a BBC correspondent in Phuket, one of the worst hit areas, it is fast becoming a recovery operation rather than a rescue operation.
Nearly 2,000 people have now been confirmed dead in Thailand as a result of Sunday's earthquake-induced tsunamis.
On Wednesday, the authorities said that at least 473 foreigners, from 36 different nations, were among the dead. Many others are reported missing by their home countries.
The authorities say they no longer need rescue teams, but have instead appealed for foreign forensic scientists to help identify the dead.
According to our correspondent in Phuket, the weather has been so hot since the disaster that the bodies being pulled from the wreckage are already barely recognisable.
It is becoming a race against time to identify the corpses, and the government has sent some refrigerated lorries to the area, to store bodies in an effort to aid this process.
It has also moved heavy lifting equipment from Bangkok to speed up the search.
Even prisoners have been mobilised to help. The Thai Corrections Department said some inmates had been building coffins for the foreign dead, while others had been temporarily released to help with the huge clean-up operation.
Searching for the missing
Meanwhile, at Phuket city hall, hundreds of relatives of the missing are gathering every day to look for their loved ones.
I have a friend, Helen Greenham, who is working as a diving instructor in Phuket. I need to know if she is safe and well.
Scott Margison, Herts, UK
Twenty-five-year-old Jeff Ekkelkamp, from Holland, told Reuters news agency: "I am looking for my mother, Ria Ekkelkamp. She's missing from the Khao Lak Merlin Beach Resort."
"We still have hope and we are not going to leave without her," he said. "Dead or alive, we have to find her."
In one of the worst hit areas, Khao Lak in Phang Nga province, hundreds of bodies have been placed in a Buddhist temple awaiting identification.
Most of the dead in Khao Lak are thought to be foreign tourists, most of which were staying in hotels on the beach front.
There was partial relief for one Swedish family caught up in the disaster.
An 18-month-old toddler was reunited with his father on Wednesday evening, days after being found alone at a roadside in Phuket.
While some tourists are mourning their dead, others are on the beach
The boy, Hannes Bergstrom, was taken to a hospital for treatment and his picture posted on the internet and in newspapers around the world.
His uncle spotted the picture and shortly afterwards the boy was re-united with his father Marko.
But Hannes' mother is said to be among the thousands of people still missing since Sunday's disaster.
While many foreigners are leaving the region as quickly as possible, others have decided to stay over the New Year period.
"It's not a holiday now and I will not be celebrating New Year, but I can't go, it feels like a duty," American tourist Brian Keith told the French news agency AFP.
In fact, amidst the carnage, some tourists are already trying to get back to a semblance of normality.
Metres away from bulldozers clearing up wreckage on Patong beach, foreigners could be seen at the Kangaroo bar drinking beer by candlelight, according to AFP.