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03 January 2005

Military Will support Tsunami-Stricken Nations as Long as Needed

U. S. Pacific Command Briefing, January 3

U.S. Navy Captain Roger Welch says the massive U.S. military assistance effort to foster recovery from the 2004 tsunami disaster will continue until all the host-nations no longer need U.S. help

Speaking to reporters via a telephone conference call from U.S. Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii January 3, Welch said the challenge for the military is to accurately inventory all of the existing supplies and assistance in the Asian region as well as what is newly flowing in hour-by-hour. "That's not easy," he said of the complex task.

Right now the priorities are moving in food, water, medical supplies, shelter and clothing," Welch said. The challenge is distributing what is needed, when it's needed to the correct location.

While much of what the military is delivering is highly visible, Welch reminded reporters that it is a team effort, with host nations making requests for assistance and multinational government and nongovernment entities and host-nation assets working together to meet relief requirements of an estimated 5 million homeless people. "We aren't the only ones providing assets," he said, and the challenge is to synchronize all the efforts.

The U.S. military resources are constantly being updated, but as of the January 3 briefing there were 12,600 Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel in the affected region. Some 21 ships including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier battle group and 80 military aircraft (including more than six dozen helicopters) were supporting them.

Welch said the military is in a position to meet requirements for items such as landing aircraft, water treatment units, and generators. When asked if the United States might send the hospital ship USS Mercy, Welch said the Defense Department will look at all requirements for medical assistance.

Welch said 76,800 daily humanitarian rations have been delivered to Indonesia and another 32,000 units to the Maldives. He also said electricity is back on in some key Indonesian coastal areas, airport congestion is easing in the Sri Lankan airport in Colombo, and the relief operation in Thailand is "going great."

A Pacific Command fact sheet on the resources and personnel devoted to the tsunami relief effort may be viewed on the Web at http://www.pacom.mil/special/0412asia/factsheet.shtml.

For additional information go to U.S. Response to Tsunami and Earthquake in Asia

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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