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Thousands of Americans missing after tsunamis

U.S. confirmed death toll rises to 14


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(CNN) -- The U.S. State Department is working to find thousands of Americans who are still missing after powerful tsunamis struck countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday the confirmed death toll of Americans killed in the disaster has risen to 14.

The exact number of missing Americans in the region is unavailable. "We're working, at any given moment 2,000 to 3,000 names,..." Boucher said.

"We shouldn't assume the worst. ... There are often Americans who are outside of the regions that directly suffered who might not have gotten in touch."

Sunday's tsunamis were triggered by a massive magnitude 9 earthquake. (Full story)

Boucher said the department was getting about 400 calls an hour from concerned relatives.

"In many cases, we are getting lists of these people out to embassies," Boucher said. "Embassies then are able to track them down or hear from them or identify them."

Names are constantly being added to the list as calls come in from families, he said.

People are being asked to visit hospitals and morgues to identify Americans, Boucher said.

More Americans are in Thailand than in any other affected nation, but they are being sought in other countries as well, he said.

The Thai government has assured U.S. officials, amid concern about mass graves, that the remains of non-Thai citizens will not be buried without proper identification, he said.

Photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples are being taken and the location of foreigners' remains is being monitored by the government, Boucher said.

"Our consular affairs task force has been up and running 24 hours a day," he said.

"They're responding to calls, they're responding to faxes. ... The task force itself is placing calls to families to get more information or, in many cases, to pass on information that we can find."

The toll-free number to the task force is (888) 407-4747.

Boucher offered advice for Americans who may be traveling in southern Asia, even if they are far away from sites where the tsunamis struck:

"Call your mother. This is a time where people who know they're hundreds of miles away from ... where the disaster might have occurred need to call home and tell their relatives, who know it's only a quarter-inch on the map."


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