Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 363 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 28-Dec-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 29-Dec-2004
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Secretary Powell's update: South Asia earthquake and tsunami

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I wanted to give you an update on the situation in South Asia as a result of the tsunami and the loss of life that was so tragic. I have just been on the phone a few moments ago with President Bush, where he has been following this situation very closely from Crawford, and as he indicated in the statement that the White House issued yesterday and he has also now written letters to the heads of state of the countries affected, he wants to extend his deepest condolences to the families of those who were lost. This is, indeed, an international tragedy and we're going to do everything we can to assist the nations that have been affected in dealing with this tragedy.

While the loss of any single life is precious, I would also like to take this opportunity to extend particular condolences for the tragic death of Khun Bhumi Jensen, who is the son of Princess Ubolratana and grandson of His Majesty King Bhumipol of Thailand. We extend condolences to the royal family.

The United States has been following this situation from the very beginning. Our embassies are working in the affected areas to assist contacting families and others, U.S. citizens who are unaccounted for. At the moment, we know of eight Americans who have died and there are several hundred who are not accounted for yet. It just means we haven't been able to reach out and get contact with them. It does not imply that they are necessarily injured or in any way a casualty.

For family members seeking information about one of their loved ones, they can contact the hotline number that we have, 1-888-407-4747. You can also go to the State Department website to get information about each of the countries involved, and that's state.gov.

Our ambassadors in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India and Indonesia have provided a total of $400,000 in immediate assistance and we are in discussions with the International Committee of the Red Cross about providing $4 million in the course of the day of the $6.6 million appeal that they have made. We are also examining what other assets might be needed and we'll do everything we can to help.

The United States Pacific Command is also involved in this, of course. They have dispatched some P3 patrol aircraft to the region and the Pacific fleet is examining what else they might be able to do to help in this situation. I have also talked in the course of the last 18 hours to my counterparts in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Malaysia, to reinforce our offers of assistance.

USAID and other elements of the United States Government have been deeply involved. What I'd like to do now, to give you more details with respect to the support we are providing, is to introduce Mr. Ed Fox, who is the Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He'll give you some details and then I will return to the podium for questions and one or two other issues.

Ed.

MR. FOX: As soon as this tragic incident happened, USAID moved, at the Secretary and the Administrator's direction, to set up and dispatch a Disaster Assistance Response Team, which are our specialists throughout the world. We drew two from the region and we're sending an additional 19, for a total of 21 members, at the moment, which will be in the area to help with sanitation, health and other kinds of relief supplies.

We also draw upon our prepositioned supplies in the region, both from the Philippines and in Dubai, where we have shelter and food. We have water cans, bladders, and things of that nature. The first important thing will be to help in the removal of debris and disaster and to help the people, not only those tragically killed, but the million or more who are also going to be displaced and will need shelter and food and clothing.

As the Secretary had said, not only have we responded, both in terms of the short run, with $400,000 to the various embassies and also a large commitment to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, but it's anticipated that we'll add another -- at least immediately -- another probably $10 million, for a total of about $15 million, in our initial response to this tragedy.


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