Bush, Clinton to Head Relief Fund; Tsunami Aid Continues
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2005 Former Presidents Bush and Clinton will head a fundraising effort to get Americans to donate money to reliable charities to aid tsunami victims in the Indian Ocean area, President Bush announced today.
The president also praised the way American servicemembers have responded to the unprecedented international disaster in the region.
More than 150,000 people are dead in the "arc of destruction" that spreads from Thailand to the Horn of Africa, Bush said. He announced that U.S. flags will fly at half-staff for the victims. The U.S. government has pledged $350 million in aid for the stricken area, and that amount could grow, pending the results of ongoing assessments.
"We're showing the compassion of our nation in the swift response, but the greatest source of America's generosity is not our government, it's the good heart of the American people," Bush said. "In the week since the tsunami struck, private citizens have contributed millions of dollars for disaster relief and reconstruction."
He announced that former President Clinton and former President Bush will head a nationwide charitable fundraising effort. "Both presidents know the great decency of our people," Bush said. "They bring tremendous leadership experience to this role, and they bring good hearts. I am grateful to the former Presidents Clinton and Bush for taking on this important responsibility and for serving our country once again."
The U.S. military response in the region continues and grows, Bush said. "American military assets in the region are now aiding recovery efforts," he said. "Patrol and cargo aircraft have been surveying damage and delivering supplies for several days. Air Force C-130s are flying aid missions 24 hours a day."
The U.S. Navy's Abraham Lincoln Carrier Battle Group is off the coast of Sumatra and transporting relief supplies by helicopter. "Other naval and Marine assets will arrive shortly to generate clean water and provide further logistical help," Bush said.
In addition to the Abraham Lincoln group, the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group will be arriving in the region Jan. 4, said Marine Brig. Gen. John Allen, DoD's coordinator for tsunami-relief efforts.
Allen stressed that military forces are working very closely with host nations. "These operations are operations for the countries themselves," Allen said during a State Department briefing today. "We work very closely with Thailand; we're working very closely with Indonesia; we're working very closely with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, because it will be in those areas in which the relief process will occur, and it is their relief."
When the Bonhomme Richard group reaches the area, its 24 helicopters will join the 19 of the Lincoln group delivering humanitarian supplies to isolated areas. Another organization, Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron 3, is also headed to the theater, Allen said.
The six ships in the prepositioning squadron, from Guam and Japan, are very large container ships. They can store up to 90,000 gallons of fresh water and can produce tens of thousands of gallons of fresh water a day, and helicopters can operate from aboard these vessels.
Air Force planes are providing much of the lift capacity, Allen said. "The Air Force has delivered, at this juncture, 430,000 pounds of supplies into the region," he said. "C-130s are converging on the region; there are about 17 on the ground now."
Larger aircraft -- C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-5 Galaxys -- also are bringing in needed supplies and other relief equipment.