Bush Pledges U.S. Assistance to Tsunami Survivors
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2004 The United States is working closely with Indian Ocean nations to rush aid to the region following the tsunamis that claimed at least 80,000 lives, President Bush said today.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Sara McClaskey, 733rd Air
Mobility Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, readies a cargo net on an aircraft
pallet bound to Southeast Asia as part of disaster relief following a 9.0
magnitude earthquake that struck Dec. 26 off the coast of Indonesia, causing
tsunami waves that have affected 12 countries. Six Air Force C-130 aircraft
from Yokota Air Base, Japan, are providing immediate support, transporting
relief supplies to Thailand. Three KC-135s from Kadena are being slated to
support the relief efforts in Sri Lanka. More than 3,000 cases of prepared
meals and four aircraft pallets of fresh water were processed through Kadena's
cargo area Dec. 28. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard Freeland, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Bush, speaking following a briefing on the situation at his home in Crawford, Texas, said the United States is "committed to helping the affected countries in the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead."
The U.S. government has pledged an initial $35 million in relief assistance. Bush spoke with the leaders of the affected countries. "We're grateful to the American and international organizations that are working courageously to save lives and to provide assistance," Bush said. "I assured those leaders this is just the only beginning of our help."
In the past year, the U.S. government has donated $2.4 billion in aid to nations suffering natural disasters. "We're a very generous, kindhearted nation, and what you're beginning to see is a typical response from America," Bush said.
The president said the immediate questions are determining what must be done immediately, and what must be done for the long-term health of the region. "We're still at the stage of immediate help," he said. "Slowly but surely, the size of the problem will become known, particular when it comes to rebuilding infrastructure and community, to help these -- these affected parts of the world get back up on their feet."
The U.S. military is supporting the effort. The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group -- including the USS Shoup, the USS Shiloh, the USS Benfold and the USNS Ranier -- has been dispatched to the region from the South China Sea. The USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group -- including the USS Duluth, the USS Milius, the USS Rushmore, the USS Thach, the USS Pasadena and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro -- also is en route.
U.S. Pacific Command has established a forward command element at the military base at Utapao, Thailand. These servicemembers are establishing a command, control and communication structure for Joint Task Force 536. The JTF will coordinate U.S. relief efforts.
U.S. Air Force C-130s and KC-135s from Japan and Guam are being dispatched to ferry aid into and around the area. The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force has sent humanitarian assistance assessment teams to the region.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has forged a coalition to deal with the unprecedented humanitarian crisis, Bush said. "Based on these discussions, we've established a regional core group with India, Japan and Australia to help coordinate relief efforts," Bush said. "I'm confident more nations will join this core group in short order."
Many Americans are still missing in the region. U.S. embassies are working to locate American citizens who are still missing and to assist those who have been injured or displaced, Bush said.
"These past few days have brought loss and grief to the world that is beyond our comprehension," Bush said. "The United States will continue stand with the affected governments as they care for the victims. We will stand with them as they start to rebuild their communities. And together the world will cope with their loss. We will prevail over this destruction."