'It was scary, like a horror film'
Hong Kong holidaymakers told of scenes of devastation when they returned home yesterday from areas affected by the tsunami.
Ranjan Marwah, chairman of finance group Capital Access, who has lived in Hong Kong for 35 years, had been in Sri Lanka with his wife and children.
'I didn't see the waves but I saw the waters flooding the streets. When I went back to the hotel at Trincomalee beach where I stayed three days ago, it no longer existed and the beach was gone,' he said.
'It was pretty scary, like watching a horror film. I have a daughter who didn't go with us. I tried so hard to call her through the mobile, but the network was so jammed that it took me many goes.'
Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat, who was on holiday in Phuket, said the experience was so traumatic that it would stay in his memory for some time.
'I won't be going back to Phuket soon - at least until the memory of this disaster fades away a bit. Life is so unpredictable, within a minute someone you see or you know is gone,' he said. 'I saw a young Thai girl die on the beach, her husband cuddling her. It was so sad.'
Three consulate officials had searched for Mr Lee who stayed overnight at a rescue centre on Boxing Day.
'I am very grateful for what the special administrative region and mainland governments have done. The officials went to look for me and see if I was safe early in the morning,' he said.
The Travel Industry Council said 29 tour groups, of about 890 Hong Kong tourists, were still in Phuket yesterday. Eleven groups had returned home by last night, with the rest returning today.
Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said: 'We learned that some of the tour groups will come back later today and tomorrow. Travel agents are in talks with the airlines to arrange their return as quickly as possible. Because everyone understands the situation, the arrangements have not been that problematic.'
Two groups of about 20 Hong Kong tourists were in the Maldives, the council said. All of them have been accounted for.
Sunflower Travel said it had nine groups of about 300 tourists scheduled to go to Phuket before January 2.
'We will let them change destinations or departure dates unconditionally if they don't want to go now,' general manager Steve Fung Chung-yuen said.
Orient Thai Airlines said once it had flown all the Hong Kong holidaymakers home, it would suspend its service to Phuket until January 8.
The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers said it had set up a telephone hotline on 28619303 for insured travellers who returned from the affected areas seeking help.