British firms operating in Asia assess their human loss, including 29 staff working for consultant Halcrow.

The tsunami disaster has left many UK construction firms working in Asia in disarray as they struggle to account for staff and try to assess the future of projects in the region.

The news has emerged as the industry rallied to pledge financial aid and operational assistance to the devastated region where more than 150,000 people have died (see pages 10-11).

Among the firms that are assessing the damage and consequences is multidisciplinary consultant Halcrow. It has been reported that 29 project staff employed by local contractors on an irrigation scheme in Indonesia’s Aceh province have not been accounted for.

Brian Clayton, 54, an employee from Mowlem’s Australian subsidiary, Barclay Mowlem, was a victim of the tsunami while on holiday in Thailand. Dominic Stephenson, 27, an architect at Edinburgh practice 3D, also died in Thailand.

Other firms that had offices, staff and projects affected in the region include consultants Arup, Scott Wilson, Atkins and EC Harris.

Multidisciplinary consultant Arup has reported that a sales office in Thailand was completely destroyed. It said: “In terms of projects, they are all safe apart from one site, Plantation in Kamala Bay, Phuket – its sales office and the contractor’s site office were swept away. Fortunately they were closed at the time so there were no injuries.”

Philip Youell, EC Harris chief executive, said staff in Indonesia and Thailand had emerged unscathed.

Contractor Balfour Beatty also reported that nobody died on its Indonesian and Malaysian projects.

The British Consultants and Construction Bureau, a private sector association for consultants and construction companies working overseas, said that a great many of its member companies have offices in the affected Asian regions, especially Sri Lanka and India.

Graham Hand, the BCCB chief executive, said: “We are aware that companies will be consulting their own local offices in the Asian region. This is already going on. Many will be trying to find out what they can do to help.”

He said it was too early to talk about the process for the reconstruction work as power lines were still being restored.

Hand added that there would be a trade mission in February for UK construction firms to visit the area and assess how they can help rebuild the disaster zone.

Tony Allum, the chairman of Halcrow, said that the firm’s Sri Lankan office in Galle had been helping with emergency reconstruction.

He said: “At the time of the tsunami, Halcrow’s project manager was on site [at the Asian Development Bank-financed Southern Highway project between Colombo and Matara]. The nearby A2 Colombo to Galle highway suffered extensive damage, and by diverting resources from the Southern Highway project, emergency repairs were carried out to the A2.”

EC Harris’ Youell said the firm was planning to support the clear-up and rebuilding process and was already talking to local Sri Lankan authorities.

Civil engineering firm Scott Wilson said that it had recently completed a design and feasibility study on a 10-year port project in Colombo, Sri Lanka. A spokesperson said that the project was certain to face delay and that its Bangkok airport project also remained uncertain.