Relatives begin desperate hunt for 10 Britons missing since the blasts

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The Independent Online

The attacks were the worst in Egypt's history. The distressed parents of one couple who failed to return to their hotel after the three bombings have been out in the streets of the Sinai resort displaying their photographs in bars and restaurants they may frequented in the last few days.

Sir Derek Plumbly, the British ambassador, said one dead Briton has now been identified. Of those originally unaccounted for after the bombings, he said: "There are 10 of these still who are of particular concern.

He added that the concern centres on these missing 10 people because of the complete lack of contact since Saturday's blasts, and what he knows about where they may have been at the time of the attacks.

"This is a terrible event," Sir Derek said. "Ghazala involved fire and very heavy explosions so the whole process is not an easy process."

Most of the missing Britons are believed to have been staying at the Ghazala Gardens Hotel with two tour parties from the UK. The second bomb destroyed the hotel's front section.

A spokeswoman for My Travel, one of the two tour companies operating at the Ghazala Gardens, said yesterday from Manchester that "a small number" of their clients were missing.

Sir Derek said British officials in a 40-strong Foreign Office team, which includes DNA analysts, counsellors, police family liaison officers and other experts, were working hard to identify bodies and aid relatives.

Fergus Stewart, the hotel's general manager, said yesterday that he had a telephone call between 2 and 3am on Saturday from a British embassy team asking if any of his guests were missing. He added: "I said the only way we are going to know when people came down for breakfast. We began checking the 20 to 30 rooms of those who didn't come down."

After checking the rooms either by speaking to the guests or checking that their beds had been slept in, they established that Ms Vickers and Mr Lakin's bed had not been disturbed since the beds had been turned down by hotel staff between 8pm and 9pm the night before. "They were due to go back on Saturday and when they didn't check out we were also obviously very concerned."

At noon, Mr Stewart told the couple's tour company, Explorer, that they were missing and called the British embassy that afternoon by which time it already had them on their list. Last night the four parents, who were offered accommodation at the Hyatt by Mr Stewart, were in the couple's room, where their possessions were left after asking to visit it. The parents declined to speak to reporters yesterday. Mr Stewart said that he had bumped into the parents on a main street of Sharm el Sheikh at about 10pm.

"They were handing out photographs near the Camel [a popular bar frequented by many of the 9,000 British holidaymakers routinely in the resort] The couple were due to go home that day so we are very concerned. I think the parents were trying to retrace their children's footsteps. They had been to places including the Hard Rock, the Little Buddha and the Camel. They were trying to find the places where they might have had drinks or dinner."

It became clear yesterday that Foreign Office officials had feared an even higher casualty and missing total after the three bombings. Sir Derek said that the figure of 10 missing Britons, which might change, was given after embassy staff "worked through" a list given to them by relatives and tour operators of unaccounted-for holidaymakers.

Egyptian officials admitted that five missing Pakistanis of whom they had earlier issued photographs on apparent suspicion of a connection with the bombing, might not have been involved. They also played down earlier reports that police had fought gun battles at two Bedouin villages within 30 miles of Sharm el Sheikh.

An Egyptian official at the Sinai governate said last night that the known death toll was 64. Forty-four were known to be Egyptians, of whom 35 had been identified and the remains returned to their families, and nine remained unidentified.

Three were of unknown nationality and 17 were foreigners, of whom two Turks had been identified, and their bodies returned to their families. The others are an unnamed Briton, and one American. Thirteen others are unidentified.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that there was no evidence of a link between the Egyptian blasts and those in London , although he added that he was not prepared to rule out a link. He refused to advise against tourism and travel to Egypt, saying: "We are already warning about a high risk of terrorism in Egypt." Egyptian tourism minister Ahmed El Maghreby said that security procedures in Sharm al Sheikh were being revised.

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