December 29, 2004 GMT

An APB went out on the ex-pat grapevine this morning for English/French/German-speaking people to look after tourists brought to BKK, whether injured, bereaved, orphaned or whatever.

So Sonja and I went and registered ourselves, then went off to the Red Cross to give blood.

Blood donations: there isn't a culture of that in Thailand, but an appeal went out in the Bangkok Post. So Sonja and I went down to the Red Cross today; it was amazing.

Hundreds of people - Thais, ex-pat Westerners, tourists, all queueing to give blood. The Thais were being lectured in the queues by the Westerners about having a good breakfast before donating (many were fainting, because of unfamiliarity and from shock); a couple of Thai film stars came along with their bodyguards and film crews, but that's good because it was on the local news and encouraged more locals to donate. The response was terrific.

We've watched the BBC World Service with growing horror. On Boxing Day morning we felt nothing here in Bangkok, although those in the high-rise blocks certainly felt the earthquake. I turned on the BBC at around 2pm (six hours after the initial quake) and was horrified. And it's become worse hour on hour and day on day.

From a personal and totally selfish point of view it means I have to stick around here for a while (how dreadful) as my only route is south - Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra.

But it's good to be able to help out, if only on a rather trivial basis. If I were in the UK I could throw a credit card at it and feel good. Here, one needs to be able to do a bit more than that, and I'm fortunate that I can.

With apologies to John Scott Heinecke (nice guy with R100GS), I include here his email to me today: "Hope you still in BKK. I am down in Phuket helping with disaster. It is a nightmare and a mess. I will send you an update later."

This thing is affecting absolutely everyone. Even the rich. Even the powerful. The King's grandson died. The family who owns the Peninsula Hotel (no you can't afford it) is missing. Speak to anyone here and they know someone, or there's a family member, or . . .

I'm extremely lucky that I'm staying with a great family who seem to be very unwilling to let me go and are begging me to abuse their hospitality. And I've made great friends with Taptim the maid.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at December 29, 2004 08:04 PM GMT

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