Page last updated at 20:52 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 21:52 UK

UK group still missing in China

Building destroyed in China earthquake
The earthquake struck on Monday afternoon

A group of 19 British tourists remain out of contact in the area devastated by Monday's earthquake in China.

Holiday firm Kuoni said the group were on a coach from Chengdu to Wolong in Sichuan province when the tremor hit.

A spokeswoman for travel body Abta added that the 19 were the only UK organised tour group in China who were still unaccounted for.

Chinese officials have said that 31 other British tourists turned up unharmed on Tuesday night.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said the group returned to the provincial capital Chengdu from a visit to the Wolong nature reserve.

'Further updates'

The death toll from the earthquake, which struck south-western China on Monday, now stands at nearly 15,000.

Kuoni said that the 19 missing British tourists had been customers of the Travel Collection company, one of its subsidiaries, and had been accompanied by a local guide and driver.

The only people we have not heard from at the moment are these 19 who are travelling with Kuoni
Abta spokeswoman

A spokeswoman said that the company was in regular contact with the Foreign Office in Chongqing about their whereabouts.

"We are waiting for further updates," she said.

"All lines of communication to the region are down and as such no further information is known at this time."

The spokeswoman added that the company was providing their families with support and as much information as possible.

An Abta spokeswoman said it had contacted its members, as well as companies belonging to the Association of Independent Tour Operators (Aito), who organise tours in China.

Anyone in the UK concerned about friends or relatives should call 020 7008 0000

She said: "In terms of organised travel or people who are on organised tours, the only people we have not heard from at the moment are these 19 who are travelling with Kuoni."

British travel group Abta said 100 UK tourists in affected areas were safe.

The Foreign Office said it had no confirmed information of British injuries, but that local reports said 15 Britons were unaccounted for.

Officials say they have no news yet from the towns at the epicentre of the quake, which had a magnitude of 7.8.

In Maoxian county, 37 tourists were killed when their coach was buried in a landslide caused by the earthquake. Their nationalities were not clear.

The Foreign Office said anyone in the UK who is concerned about friends or relatives who may be in China should call its helpline on 020 7008 0000.

It has advised against all but essential travel to Sichuan province.

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