Walloon man thought to be 11th Belgian victim of Indian Ocean tsunami
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Walloon man thought to be 11th Belgian victim of Indian Ocean tsunami

The family of 57-year-old Jacques Kirsch have said they have "no real hope" that he survived the disaster. Credit: © Belga

Fifteen years after a devastating tsunami killed thousands and devastated numerous South-East Asian communities in 2004, mystery continues to surround the disappearance of one Belgian man travelling in the area.

Ten Belgians were among the over 200,000 people killed in one of the deadliest recorded natural disasters in modern history, and the family of Jacques Kirsch believes he might be the 11th Belgian victim.

“The body was never found, we are still trying to figure out what happened to him,” Kirsch’s sister-in-law Anne told La Dernière Heure.

Kirsch, 57, was travelling in Thailand when an earthquake of between 9.1 and 9.3 in magnitude rocked the seabed of the Indian Ocean, causing a massive tsunami to crush coast communities in Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004.

The Wallon man’s family said they think Kirsch was in the Thai city of Pukhet when it was hit by the massive wave, which reached the Thai coastline at around 11:00 AM local time on Boxing day.

His relatives have not heard from him since the tsunami, and have said that they had a speckle of hope that he may be alive after seeing a picture of someone who looked like him in a magazine piece about the tsunami’s survivors.

“Unfortunately, the photo was taken from far away,” Anne said. “We studied the image and everyone saw hope in it, I can’t let it go, but if I think about it, I realise that it cannot be Jacques — but on the other hand… there is that similarity.”

Anne said that despite the fact that the family no longer have any “real hope,” the photo has led one family member to continue looking for witnesses who might be able to shed a light on what became of him.

“We no longer have any real hope, in any case. He must have been dragged out to the sea,” Anne said. “Otherwise, he would certainly have given a sign of life after all these years, but since 26 December 2004, it’s dead silent.”

The powerful earthquake and ensuing tsunami killed an estimated 227,898 people in 14 different countries, with the highest death toll reported in Indonesia.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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