The missing, the dead and the unaccounted for. How countries around the world are counting their losses.

The number of Australians unaccounted has dropped to 232, down from the initial missing list of 1000 posted within days of the disaster.

The unofficial Australian death toll has risen to 23 in the last few days, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is still confirming just 13 dead while waiting for bodies which have been provisionally identified to be put through the international disaster victims identification processes.

DFAT also holds grave fears for another 31 Australians known to be in tsunami-hit areas.

However, one good news story to have emerged through the disaster is that of missing Adelaide surfer Sam Green.

Green called his parents on Sunday night, 15 days after the tsunami hit and confirmed he was surfing on the remote Mentawai Islands off Sumatra on Boxing Day.

He did not even know there had been a tsunami or that his brother Ben was in Indonesia searching for him, but for the second time in a week, newspaper headlines read, He’s alive – and luckily for his parents this time it was true.

The Australians death toll includes:

Barry Anstee, 52, Queensland businessman. Phuket, Thailand.
Magdalene Balachandra, 61, of Canberra. Sri Lanka.
Barathy Balasingham. Sri Lanka.
Craig Baxter, 37, permanent resident, Thailand.
Troy Broadbridge, 24, of Melbourne. Phi Phi island, Thailand.
Brian Clayton, 59-year-old safety organiser, from Karana Downs, Brisbane. Phuket.
Pranom Dimmock, 39, Thai national, with Australian citizenship.
Dinah Fryer, 50, of Adelaide. Phuket.
Paul Giardina, 16, from Rosanna, Melbourne. Phuket.
Melina Heppell, six-month-old, of Western Australia. Patong Beach, Thailand.
Sujeewa Kamalasuriya, 39, a dual Australian-Sri Lankan citizen, from Adelaide. Sri Lanka.
Yumi Kloot, of the Gold Coast. Phi Phi Island.
Nikola Liebowitz, 30, South African national, with Australian citizenship.
Philip Neame, 54, Queensland. Thailand.
Christian Nott, 34, and Moi Vogel, 32, of Sydney. Khao Lak.
Jim Sparrow, 68, of Maddington, Western Australia. Patong.
Sacha Srikaow, 3, Sydney. Thailand.
Catherina van Duren, 81, permanent resident in WA. Thailand.
30-year-old woman, permanent resident. Sri Lanka.

Tuesday 4 January

More than a week after the tsunami hit Asian coastlines, confusion over the number of dead and missing still remains.

Over night, British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw announced a further 159 missing British tourists were presumed dead, in addition to the 40 already confirmed dead.

Straw told a press conference, “It is still possible that not all of these 159 individuals will have perished, but the presumption has to be that a significant number of them will have been killed”.

Yesterday however, the hard hit Scandinavian countries were revising down some of the number of their missing.

FT.com reported that in Sweden, the official number of dead remained unchanged at 52 but the number missing was cut to 2,322 from 2,915 on Sunday.

In Norway the number of dead was revised down from 21 to 16 and the missing down from nearly 1,400 to 275.

In Denmark the number of confirmed dead remained at seven, but the number of missing fell to 69 from 275, although around 100 people who could have been in the area have still to be traced.

Back in Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is having similar difficulties accounting for missing Australians who were thought to be in the area at the time.

Today the ABC reported the number of Australians dead had risen to 14, but DFAT only confirmed the number of dead as 12, with the fate of 79 others causing serious concern, while another 650 Australian who were in tsunami-affected areas remain unaccounted for.

On the numbers of missing Australians the DFAT website says:

Departmental consular staff have made intensive efforts over recent days to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of Australians reported missing in areas affected by the tsunami, focusing in particular on those individuals about whom we have grave concerns.

This has involved phone calls to those Australians who reported to the DFAT hotline the names of friends and loved ones they believed may have been in areas directly affected by the tsunamis. It also involved intensive efforts by our consular staff overseas working with local authorities to track down Australians.

As a result of these efforts, we have reduced the number of Australians about which we have grave concerns from 107 to 79.

Of the 650 still unaccounted for:

  • in most cases, consular staff have been unable to reach the person who first made these reports
  • in other cases we have insufficient information about individuals whereabouts at the time of the incident and are seeking more information from families.

We stress that these numbers will change as our enquiries overseas and in Australia continue. Australians should be prepared for a substantially higher death toll.

The case of missing Adelaide surfer Sam Green, illustrates the difficulties the authorities are facing. Yesterday, The Advertiser carried a jubilant report that Green was safe in their story He’s alive, but just a day later reports on Greens whereabouts have been proved to be unsubstantiated, as certain as The Daily Telegraph report – Family’s torment as hope shattered.