With so many HK people unaccounted for, officers waste three hours at empty mortuary The number of Hong Kong people listed as officially missing fell sharply yesterday, but relatives were still trying to contact more than 1,000 people. With the Hong Kong death toll still at two, Deputy Secretary for Security Michael Wong Wai-lun said the number of missing had dropped to 174 from 274 a day earlier. But he said the number whose whereabouts was uncertain had risen to 848 by noon yesterday from 723 as calls continued to come in from relatives. People are treated as missing when their last whereabouts is known but they have not contacted relatives. Meanwhile planned DNA testing to check for Hong Kong fatalities failed to get under way yesterday when police left a new mortuary at the devastated Khao Lak resort north of Phuket in Thailand after a three-hour wait for bodies to arrive. The first 20 bodies arrived at 3.15pm, after the Hong Kong team had left and were tested by teams from other countries. Chief Superintendent for crime Philip Wong Pak-nin, who had earlier said they would visit three mortuaries to get DNA samples for chemical analysis, sidestepped questions on whether there had been a communication problem. 'It seemed that the bodies hadn't arrived. We have talked to the staff there, and they said many officials from other countries had come here to identify the corpses,' Mr Wong said. Of those reported missing, 113 were in Thailand, 12 in Sri Lanka, 15 in Indonesia, three in Malaysia, three in Maldives and 28 in other places. 'When people start to return to Hong Kong, we can't rule out the possibility that the number of people whom we can't contact will rise,' Mr Wong said. More than 160 government officials were in Thailand and Sri Lanka yesterday, including 146 in Thailand. Additional police were due to fly to Thailand today. Wing On Travel, meanwhile, will send a 50-member team of tourist guides who can speak Thai to Thailand to help search for the missing ones. The Hong Kong government team yesterday turned their attention to searching for the injured or deceased at hospitals in Phuket. Also doing the rounds at the city's hospitals were the families of the Hongkongers still missing. James Wong Sing-shun, the father of missing Hong Kong teacher Rubina Wong Carmen, was hoping for a reason to celebrate yesterday's New Year's Eve. 'I hope we can find her and throw a big party to celebrate,' he said. Another relative of missing Hong Kong people, Kinson Lam, returned to the spot where his brother and his family were staying when the waves hit. 'We've mostly been checking hospitals. We've also gone to the hotel [in Khao Lak] where my brother stayed but it's in ruins,' Mr Lam said. 'There is a possibility that my brother and his family have been moved to other hospitals.' Last night, more than 500 people, both locals and foreigners, joined a half-hour candle-light ritual at a shopping mall in downtown Phuket. They took two minutes of silence to remember the victims, and afterwards left their candles at a stand outside to mark their respects. Superintendent Wong attributed the drop in the number of missing to incidents of overcounting and people previously listed as missing making contact or returning home. The Immigration Department had received 877 calls for inquiry and 985 calls for assistance by noon yesterday. Mr Wong urged employers to take note of any employees who did not return to work after the holiday. Vivian Lau Lee-kwan, the deputy secretary for education and manpower, said guidelines on how to respond to cases of missing teachers or students had been prepared. Police Commissioner Dick Lee Ming-kwai said the force was ready to supply more manpower and equipment if needed. 'If they need to stay in Phuket for more than a week, we also have enough manpower and equipment to meet their needs,' Mr Lee added.