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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Support for the mourning
WTC site
The zone around the ruined trade towers is off-limits
The difficult task of comforting and helping British families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attack is now well underway in New York.

A team of counsellors and police family liaison officers from across the UK have made themselves available to distraught relatives arriving in the city.

Twin towers' toll
More than 5,000 people are still unaccounted for
But so far, there is still no definitive list of British nationals who were caught in the terror attacks last Tuesday.

Although the final death toll is likely to be between 200 and 300, many more names were registered with the consulate in the aftermath.

Tom Harris, the British consul in New York, said 845 people had to be eliminated from the missing persons list before a definitive toll could be confirmed.

Mr Harris asked those who had since heard from loved ones to call and eliminated them from the list.

'Hand-holding capacity'

He was speaking to the media a week and a day after the terror attacks on the US. With Mr Harris were Detective Superintendent John Godsave, who is leading a team of 20 police family liaison officers, and Arty O'Hara, who is in charge of 10 counsellors.

Paying respects in London
Up to 300 Britons are feared dead
Both teams have based themselves at a hotel in Manhattan where some relatives of the missing Britons are staying.

The British Government has agreed to pay for flights and three nights accommodation for two close family members in each case.

Dr O'Hara explained the challenges that will confront the delegation.

"Everyone deals with something like this in different ways. But many of them are likely to experience anger, despair, confusion," said Dr O'Hara, a consultant psychiatrist based in Northern Ireland.

"But we are not here to do formal counselling. We are more here in a hand-holding capacity."

No access to ruins

Mr Godsave explained that the task of his officers was to provide support and information in addition to the services laid on by the Americans.


Many of them are likely to experience anger, despair, confusion

Arty O'Hara
Families would be escorted around the scene of the devastation, although they would not be allowed into ground zero - the ruins of the twin towers.

They would, however, be able to visit a shrine which has been set up in a church close to the devastation.

The services organised through the consulate will also be available to British families already living in the US. Likewise, help is available to Americans living in the UK.

Mr Godsave said about 25 people had so far availed themselves of the British Consulate's help. He said the overriding emotion experienced by them was "bewilderment".

Dr O'Hara said: "I do not think it's about our people saying anything. It's about listening to them and giving them space to express whatever they want to express.

"It's a difficult balance to strike between being intrusive and being available."


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19 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair begins anti-terror talks
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