U.S. sends financial aid, relief teams to Asian nations
At least eight Americans among dead
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States dispatched disaster specialists Monday and prepared an initial $15 million aid package to the Asian countries hit by a massive earthquake and tsunamis. U.S. officials were seeking to contact hundreds of Americans who remain unaccounted for in the region.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said eight Americans died in the natural disaster, and that embassy officials were trying to locate other U.S. citizens who have not been heard from since Sunday's quake.
"We will do everything we can to immediately help," Powell said. "This is, indeed, an international tragedy."
U.S. officials immediately sent $100,000 each to India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, and planned to donate $4 million later Monday to help Red Cross disaster efforts, Powell said.
The initial U.S. aid package being crafted was expected to reach at least $15 million, said Ed Fox of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He called it an initial response until surveys are concluded and requests considered.
Also, Fox said, the United States was drawing on shelter, food, water cans and other supplies that were kept in reserve in the Philippines and in Dubai.
Powell cautioned that was a "quick infusion" and that the administration was prepared to help with long-term rebuilding.
He also said while several hundred Americans were unaccounted for it does not imply they were casualties. "It just means we haven't been able to reach out and get contact with them," he told reporters at the State Department.
President Bush, who is at his Texas ranch, has sent letters of condolences to leaders of the seven countries that were affected by the earthquake, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Monday. The president received a special briefing Monday morning about the situation in Asia, has seen pictures of the damage on television and has spoken on the phone with Powell, Duffy said.
"This is a terrible tragedy," he said. "There is a significant loss of life. And our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are suffering."
Asked whether the United States was concerned that terrorists might take advantage of the catastrophe, Duffy said, "We wouldn't get into any classified types of information, but the American people can rest assured that no matter what happens in the world, that the government will be doing everything it can to protect the American people from terrorism."
Assessment groups were sent to Thailand and Indonesia, and 21 specialists will fan out through the region to help with sanitation, health and relief supplies, Fox said. Most of the specialists are based in Thailand.
The U.S. Navy said it sent three P-3 surveillance aircraft from Kadena air base on the Japanese island of Okinawa to Utaphao, Thailand, to conduct survey operations, including a possible role in search-and-rescue efforts.
The Navy said it had no reports of damage to any of its ships or bases in the region.
It is an international tragedy and I'm glad the U.S. is sending aid and according to this article there will be long term aid.