British tourists missing after China quake

A view of the earthquake-affected Beichuan County of Mianyang City, Sichuan province May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

LONDON (Reuters) - A group of 19 British tourists are missing following the devastating earthquake in China, their travel company said on Tuesday.

The group, on a Travel Collection tour, were travelling with a guide by coach from Chengdu to Wolong in the Sichuan Province when the earthquake struck on Monday.

Chinese officials have said about 12,000 people have been killed since the 7.9 magnitude quake struck the southwestern region of Sichuan, with Xinhua news agency reporting that thousands more were buried.

Kuoni, the UK travel firm’s parent company, said an operations team was trying to make contact with the missing group with help from the Foreign Office.

“All lines of communication to the region are down and as such no further information is known at this time. We are working closely with the British Consulate in China,” the firm said in a statement.

ABTA, which said there were about 50 travel firms offering tours in the area, said about 100 other British tourists in the region had been accounted for.

“The only member that we are aware that had a party that aren’t accounted for are Kuoni,” a spokeswoman said.

The Foreign Office has advised against any travel to Sichuan and holidaymakers due to travel to the affected areas are being re-routed.

Reporting by Michael Holden