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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 05:24 GMT
Thailand buries last tsunami dead
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Khao Lak, Thailand

A memorial service for the victims of the 2004 tsunami in Khao Lak, Thailand (file image)
Khao Lak was one of the worst-hit areas along the Andaman coast
The last 125 unidentified victims of the tsunami that struck Thailand two years ago have been buried.

Around 5,400 people died in Thailand, half of them foreign tourists. Another 3,000 are still reported missing.

The efforts to identify the remains of victims, often badly decomposed, has been described as the largest forensic operation in history.

The final bodies are those that the authorities were unable to identify through DNA testing or dental records.

Simple ceremony

The very simple ceremony began with prayers by members of the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities as it is not known which religion those being buried followed.

Most are thought to be Asian, many perhaps illegal workers from Burma whose families would have been unable to come to Thailand to find them.

A special cemetery for tsunami victims is being constructed across the road from the forensic centre in Khao Lak.

The corpses have been implanted with microchips and enclosed in aluminium coffins so they can be disinterred later if needed.

In many ways this ceremony draws a line under the traumatic experience of the tsunami, even here in Khao Lak, the hardest-hit region.

Bouncing back

It has taken much longer for the tourist industry here to bounce back than in the larger resort island of Phuket down the coast.

But hotels are now reporting sharp increases in visitors.

A few are back to pre-tsunami occupancy levels.

There are few visible signs of the damage wreaked by the massive waves.

A remarkable rebuilding effort, aided by thousands of foreign volunteers, has replaced most of the destroyed homes and fishing boats.

Some complain that there has been too much rebuilding.

There are now believed to be twice as many fishing boats as before.

But many of those who lost family members are still likely to continue to need some psychiatric counselling.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Tsunami burial preparations in Thailand



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