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Asia counts its dead and missing

By Marianne Bray

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- As rescuers dig through the rubble of terrorist attacks in the United States, details are starting to trickle in on just how many Asian nationals were caught up in the terror.

Governments around Asia are tracking down hundreds of their citizens who were working in the World Trade Center when terrorists slammed their hijacked planes into the towers on Tuesday morning.

But as companies scramble to locate their staff, officials are saying it could take days, if not weeks, to work out just how many casualties there are.

The lower Manhattan district where the towers once resided was also a popular spot for tourists, and it is feared that many more could have died here.

What's more, a number of Asian nationals were among the casualties in the skies, when hijacked planes ploughed into the New York landmark and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Japan banks

The 110-storey WTC twin towers, which housed around 50,000 workers, were a magnet for many of the world's biggest and most prestigious financial companies.

Japanese companies had a strong presence in the busy complex, with around 31 firms. Most have confirmed their workers were safe.

Four Japanese companies say that around 19 Japanese nationals are still missing.

Japan's Fuji Bank took up the 79th to the 82nd floors of the WTC South tower, and according to Japan's Asahi Shimbun, about a dozen of their 115 workers were still missing on Wednesday night.

There is also no word on around 500 locally-hired staff who worked at the bank's New York branch.

Two workers for the Nishi-Nippon Bank Ltd, whose offices were on the 102nd floor, have not been heard from. Their three-person office was just above the zone of impact.

Five out of 15 workers at the Chuo Mitsui Trust and Banking Co. are missing.

Amid conflicting reports, Japan's foreign ministry said on Wednesday dozens of tourists visiting New York have still not been heard from.

Chinese presence

China Daily's website said 11 out of 18 Chinese businesses scattered across the WTC have got tabs on their staff, but the fate of around 30 others is unknown.

The China Daily, with 56 workers, has its North American headquarters in one of the towers.

One worker, Sun Lingling, told the paper she stumbled down 33 floors, clogged with smoke and people. When she reached the bottom, she noticed eight elevators had crashed and spoke of chunks of granite falling off the lobby walls around her.

Five other Chinese companies have not been able to contact their employees while another company said one of its workers was injured.

It is believed that two Chinese, a man and a woman, were on board the hijacked planes that hit the Pentagon and the twin towers.

South Korea

Most of the 27 South Koreans listed as missing -- nine were confirmed safe Thursday -- also worked in the WTC towers.

The only Korean confirmed dead, was aboard the hijacked United Airlines plane from Boston. Kim Ji-soo, 37, was flying that day to visit her 83-year-old grandmother in Los Angeles.

According to Kim's family, she was a professor at Boston University's medical school and was on the plane with her American husband, Peter Hanson, 32, and two-year-old daughter.

South Pacific

Both Australia and New Zealand have a strong presence in New York's business community. New Zealand has estimated that 300 of its citizens live in the city and there could be many more just visiting.

So far Australia says that three of its nationals have been confirmed dead. A 66-year-old Sydney man died when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center while a 62-year-old Sydney woman on board American Airlines 77 was killed after her plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington DC.

Australia's foreign affairs ministry is still checking out whether another six Australians were on one of the aircraft.

Another 90 Australians who were reportedly in the vicinity of the twin towers at the time of the attacks, are still missing, a statement released by Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer said.

One Australian who was spared was swimming star Ian Thorpe, who was planning a trip to the World Trade Center when he heard about the attack.

In the Philippines, journalist Cookie Micaller said her sister, Cynthia Wilson, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was on the 79th floor of one of the towers and used a cell phone to call an uncle in New York before the building collapsed.

"She said, `Please pray for me. We need your prayer.' The conversation was cut off, and she never called again," Micaller said told The Associated Press. "Five minutes later after that call, the building she was on collapsed."

While The Times of India web site says hundreds of Indians may have been caught up in the attack, only one company, Wipro, has commented. It says that four of its workers are still missing.

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