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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005, 11:55 GMT
Jowell defends tsunami response
People arrive for the tsunami inquest in west London
An inquest into 91 British deaths in the tsunami opened on Monday
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has defended the British government's response to the Asian tsunami.

Ms Jowell was speaking during her first visit to the Thai coastline since 121 Britons died there on Boxing Day.

Her visit coincides with an inquest in London at which victims' families have criticised the help they were offered by the Foreign Office.

We should not forget "the sheer heroism of people who just did everything that they could," she insisted.

E-mails 'unheeded'

Ms Jowell, who is minister responsible for victims' families, said critics had to remember the scale of the disaster.

Scene of destruction in Banda Aceh caused by the Asian tsunami

She told BBC News: "Hindsight is a great attribute at times like this, isn't it?

"And of course I'm absolutely sure that people who were here on Boxing Day will look back and think that perhaps there were things that might have been done differently.

"But you know, I don't think either that we should forget the sheer heroism of people who just did everything that they could."

Ms Jowell is in Thailand to see reconstruction work being carried out to repair damage caused by the tsunami.

At the inquest, relatives of those killed have said they were not given enough help by the Foreign Office, that their e-mails and phone calls for help went unheeded and they were not kept informed of developments in the search for their loved ones.

Ms Jowell told BBC News the Foreign Office had learnt its lessons.

At least 200,000 people died when the tsunami struck the coasts of 13 countries on 26 December.

A mass inquest into the deaths of 91 of the British fatalities is being held at the Olympia Exhibition Centre, in west London.

Police say a total of 149 Britons and people with close links to the UK died in the disaster.



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