Bush Praises Troops Supporting Earthquake Relief
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2005 Servicemembers supporting earthquake-relief efforts in South Asia "represent the best of America (and) the generous spirit of our country," President Bush said today at the White House.
"I'm grateful to the men and women in uniform for the noble work they are doing," Bush said as he described sweeping U.S. government support one month after a devastating earthquake struck Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Its epicenter was near Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, northeast of Islamabad.
The Oct. 8 earthquake killed 70,000 Pakistanis and injured more than 70,000 others while leaving nearly 3 million homeless. In India, it killed more than 1,000 people and injured more than 6,000 others.
Bush described the magnitude 7.6 earthquake as the worst natural disaster to strike the region in a century and vowed that the United States will continue to provide help, particularly as winter approaches and many people are homeless.
In addition to a pledge of $156 million for relief and reconstruction needs, the United States has provided food, water, blankets, tents and medical care, he said. Disaster-response personnel also remain on the ground to assess needs and offer assistance, the president said.
"Our government's response to this tragedy ... should say to the people of the world, 'We care when somebody else suffers,'" he said.
The military is playing a key role in the U.S. response, the president noted. A U.S. Navy construction battalion based in Okinawa, Japan, is helping to clear roads and solve other engineering challenges. U.S. military helicopters have flown more than 1,000 missions to deliver aid to isolated areas and transport thousands of people to shelter and medical care, he said. In addition, a U.S. military hospital is now operating in Pakistan.
During a Nov. 2 briefing at the State Department here, Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, the Joint Staff's deputy director for regional operations, said the large-scale military operations are being conducted in close coordination with the Pakistani government.
"This is all an effort to get needed supplies and equipment to the places where they are most needed," Ham said.