04 January 2005
Tsunami Warning System Subject of U.S.-Thai Discussions
U.S. delegation also discussed regional relief efforts, Powell says
Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed with Thai authorities the need for a tsunami warning system during his visit to Thailand January 3.
In remarks to the press at the City Hall Disaster Relief Center in Phuket, Powell said Thailand has requested assistance in environmental recovery activities and has discussed setting up a tsunami warning system for the region. Although the Japanese will be hosting a conference at the end of January focusing on "this kind of disaster reduction activity," the secretary said, the Thai government is anxious to move forward as quickly as possible on the issue.
"They want to move forward on a regional basis, but I know that they are prepared to move forward alone, if necessary. We think it would be better if we do it on a regional basis," he said. Powell said the United States has the expertise and experience to help set up a regional warning system and "would certainly do everything we can to contribute" to one.
The secretary said that there are two equally important aspects of a tsunami warning system: detection and communication.
A tsunami warning system not only needs the technology to detect an event, "but also the means to distribute that information, just as we distribute storm information or typhoon information," he said.
Powell said that the "difficult challenge" he has seen during his visit so far is the identification of remains. He said that he would consult with experts to see if the United States can provide more assistance on this task through forensic pathology methods.
The secretary said he was impressed by Thailand's domestic disaster relief efforts and "their willingness to serve as a hub for relief operations throughout the region at the air base at Utapao."
Powell was in Thailand with a delegation that includes Florida Governor Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother; Andrew Natsios, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and Mike Brown, the administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The group is scheduled to travel to Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka January 2-7.
Both Powell and Governor Bush offered condolences to the people of Thailand and others affected by the December 26, 2004, tragedy.
"[O]n behalf of the President and First Lady of the United States, and on behalf of the people of our country, we will be shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of this region and the people of this region to provide support not only for the relief and for the recovery, but on a long-term basis," Bush said.
During his remarks, Powell said he was "very saddened" to hear of the assassination of the governor of Baghdad.
"It once again shows that there are these murderers and terrorists, former regime elements in Iraq, that don't want to see an election," he said. "The Iraqi Interim Government is determined to fight this insurgency. And you can be sure the Coalition will do everything it can to fight the insurgency so that the Iraqi people can have a successful election at the end of the month."
Following is the State Department transcript of the event:
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
January 4, 2005
REMARKS TO THE PRESS
BY SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL AND
FLORIDA GOVERNOR JEB BUSH
AT THE CITY HALL DISASTER RELIEF CENTER
January 4, 2004
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Governor Bush and the members of our delegation have come here to Phuket to make an on-the-scene assessment of the situation and also to convey to the people of Thailand our deep concern over what has happened and a commitment that the United States will do everything that it can to assist the people of Thailand, as well as the other nations of the region who have suffered as a result of the tsunami that took place last weekend. The United States has made a significant financial contribution, but we've done much more than that. Private citizens throughout America are making contributions. A campaign has been started under the leadership of former President Bush and former President Clinton. And I think you'll see the generosity of the American people, as they make their contributions to assist all of our friends in the region.
We've also made a significant contribution with our military forces who are now operating in the area. One aircraft carrier battle group is here, an amphibious group will be here shortly. American helicopters are carrying relief supplies to communities in need, and we're also providing significant quantities of food and water and other supplies. We have Disaster Assistance Relief Teams on the scene throughout the region where they are needed.
I was very impressed earlier today by what the Thai Foreign Minister said to Governor Bush and to me with respect to their efforts and how they are going to be able to manage this within Thailand, but beyond that, their willingness to serve as a hub for relief operations throughout the region at the air base at Utapao. And so I'd like to express our condolences to the Thai people for the Thais who were lost and also to the other nations who are here looking for their loved ones among those who are still missing. We hope that in the days ahead we will be able to work with the Thai government to complete the recovery operation and then get on with the process of rebuilding and giving people a chance to build their homes, and to restore their businesses, and to begin to rebuild life as they knew it. The one thing the Thai people can be sure of, though, is that they have a friend and ally in the United States. President Bush is determined to do everything we can to assist Thailand, and I would ask Governor Bush if he would care to say a word.
GOVERNOR BUSH: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, I would like to reiterate the Secretary's comments about our sincere condolences to the Thai people, and to the families of people who have their lives in this tragedy. We've had tragedies in our own country and people have come to our aid. In Florida this last summer, we had four hurricanes hit us over a six-week period, but nothing compares to the devastation that we've been briefed on here in these last two days.
We're also here to thank the relief workers, and the men and women of the consular corps all across the world that are here on behalf of their citizens, and on behalf of providing relief for the people of this region. These are true heroes. These are people who have working 24-hours a day without asking anything in return, acting on their sense of compassion.
Once again, I would just say, on behalf of the President and First Lady of the United States, and on behalf of the people of our country, we will be shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of this region and the people of this region to provide support not only for the relief and for the recovery, but on a long-term basis.
QUESTION: Have you identified any gaps or holes, so far, in the relief effort? Anything you think should be being done that isn't and that you'd make a recommendation to President Bush that the United States do?
SECRETARY POWELL: Not yet. We have been in very close touch with the Thai authorities and from our briefings earlier today with the Foreign Minister it seems that the government of Thailand has a good idea of what they have to do and what is needed. We have provided body bags, and we're responding to specific requests that they make of us. They want some assistance with environmental recovery activities. They want to discuss with us a warning system for the region. And the difficult challenge that I've seen here this afternoon that I will go back and see if there's not more we can do has to do with the identification of remains, forensic activity, forensic pathology, and see whether or not there's more we can do to assist Thai authorities and international authorities with the identification effort.
QUESTION: I'm from the Thai News Agency and my name is (inaudible), Channel Nine, Thailand. Secretary of State, I'd like you to compare the situation in Thailand with other countries. And the other question is that, do you think the mobilization of resources right now is enough to tackle the problem?
SECRETARY POWELL: The situation in Indonesia is far worse, in the Aceh region. The Aceh region perhaps accounts for two-thirds of all the loss of life as a result of the tsunami. That's why after meetings here today, Governor Bush and I will be going to Jakarta for meetings with the Indonesian government. I think the need is much greater there. The financial need as well as the humanitarian need. I'm sorry, the second part of your question?
QUESTION: I want you to...do you think the resources that the world has mobilized to tackle the problem is enough to meet the demands of the situation?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think there has been enormous outpouring from the international community, an outpouring of money. As Kofi Annan indicated earlier, within the last few hours, it's over two and a half billion dollars now. We have committed $350 million, and of that amount, 40 million has already been allocated out, and is in the process of being spent. So, we have a considerable amount of money ready to be spent after this initial $40 million expenditure and we'll spend it as fast as it is needed. We are responding to requests that are given to us.
I think we're bringing more military assets into the region, with our amphibious ships. I think there is large quantities of food on the way, fresh water on the way, medical supplies on the way. I will really leave it to the rescue organizations and the NGOs to say what else might be needed and where there may be gaps. And as those gaps are identified to us, we will do everything we can to fill those gaps, either through use of our military forces or the resources of our United States Agency for International Development and other NGOs and private organizations that we can fund through the money that we have available.
QUESTION: Jonathan Watts of the Guardian newspaper. Could you tell us a little more about what America can do to help the region develop a warning system for tsunami? And isn't it the case that, actually, the Hawaii tsunami warning center has a pretty good idea that something bad might happen, but that information wasn't passed on quickly? How can you avoid that in the future?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not familiar with what the Hawaii center may or may not have had. Tsunamis of the kind that we saw last weekend are not that common in this part of the world, so perhaps enough attention hadn't been given to putting in place the right kind of warning system. The Japanese will be hosting a conference toward the end of the month that will deal with this kind of disaster reduction activity.
I know that the Thai Government is anxious to move forward. They want to move forward on a regional basis, but I know that they are prepared to move forward alone, if necessary. We think it would be better if we do it on a regional basis. We have expertise and experience, and we would certainly do everything we can to contribute to a regional warning system.
There are two aspects to the system, not just detecting that something was about to happen as a result of an earthquake, but also the means to distribute that information, just as we distribute storm information or typhoon information. This is a little different--it has to get out much quicker, but you would use the same television and radio methods for distribution and whatever other methods of distribution are possible.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, Philip Acher Hayes of the Irish Broadcaster RTE. The Generals in Burma, in Myanmar, maintain that the casualty list there totals at 59 people, where elsewhere in the region, it's in the region of thousands. Do you believe them?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know whether to believe them or not to believe them. The information we have is quite sketchy and limited because the government controls such information, but based on some information I received earlier today--an examination of satellite photos taken earlier in the week--suggest that Burma was not hit as hard as the other nations in the region. But, I cannot speak for the number of people who were actually lost. But, they did not receive the same kind of damage as we see here in this area or in other parts of the region. But, I cannot ascertain one way or another what the truth is with respect to actual casualties.
QUESTION: Justin (inaudible) from NBC News. Sir, I wonder if you can tell us what specific efforts are being made to find the four to five thousand Americans who are estimated to be missing in the region? Also, I wonder if you could react to news reports that the mayor of Baghdad was assassinated?
SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the first question, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 Americans that we are trying to get track of. I don't know how many of them were in Thailand, how many where elsewhere, and I don't even know if they should be called "missing." We are just trying to track them down. They are identified to us as a result of calls that have come in from their family members. And so, we hope that their number will be reduced in the days ahead as we call back to families and say, "Have you heard from your loved one yet?" So, we'll being running that number down, but I don't how many of them actually might be victims. Right now, the victim count still remains at 15, where it has been for the last several days. This is just going to take a lot of effort, painstaking effort.
I was very saddened to hear of the assassination of the mayor of Baghdad. It once again shows that there are these murderers and terrorists, former regime elements in Iraq, that don't want to see an election. They don't want to see the people of Iraq choose their own leadership. They want to go back to the past. They want to go back to the tyranny of the Saddam Hussein regime, and that's not going to happen. The Iraqi people don't want it to happen. The Iraqi Interim Government is determined to fight this insurgency. And you can be sure the Coalition will do everything it can to fight the insurgency so that the Iraqi people can have a successful election at the end of the month.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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