21 Taiwanese unaccounted for in Nepal: Minister

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Twenty-one R.O.C. nationals remain unaccounted for following a devastating earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday, killing thousands, Taiwan's foreign minister said yesterday.

Foreign Minister David Lin said that as of 4:30 p.m. yesterday, there were still 21 Taiwanese supposedly in Nepal who have not yet been located in the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck the Himalayan country.

There were 204 Taiwan nationals known to be in Nepal at the time of the quake, 183 of whom have been confirmed to be safe so far, Lin said in an update on Taiwan's efforts to locate its citizens since the earthquake.

The minister called on Taiwanese nationals who are stranded in Nepal following the disaster to call their families back in Taiwan or call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) representative office in India on the emergency number +919810502610 or the Foreign Ministry in Taiwan on +886800085095.

Asked for more details on the Taiwanese reported missing, Lin said most of them are believed to be individual travelers rather than tour group visitors.

MOFA's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs head Elliott Charng added that the missing nationals include three who are believed to be part of a UK hiking group. They were last heard from on April 21.

Lin said the ministry has been working with all available resources to locate the missing Taiwanese, including obtaining information from its overseas offices, from travel records, travel agencies and the relatives of those who were in Nepal at the time of the earthquake.

Calls for Donations of Emergency Supplies

Lin yesterday called on Taiwanese to donate emergency supplies, including blankets, water and food rations to Nepal to assist post-disaster relief work in the country.

MOFA will help organise the collection and transportation of blankets, water, food rations and medical supplies to be sent to Nepal and will maintain communications with the Nepalese authorities, Lin said.

The minister yesterday also noted that Nepal authorities have kindly declined Taiwan's offer to send rescue teams for now.

Lin explained that Kathmandu has so far only asked for assistance in search and rescue efforts from neighbouring countries. The country said it will contact Taiwan if it needs further assistance.

He noted that the decision has nothing to do with Chinese pressure or the countries' lack of official diplomatic ties.

In fact, several advance teams from Taiwanese charities, including Taiwan International Health Action, TaiwanIHA, Buddha's Light International Association and Taiwan Red Cross, will depart Tuesday for Nepal to assess the country's needs as preparations are made to provide medical help, he noted.

The Taiwan government has already announced that it will donate US$300,000 (S$420,000) to Nepal following the devastating disaster.