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06 January 2005

United States Will Support Nations Hit by Tsunami, Powell Says

Secretary expresses solidarity with global response to tsunami disaster

The United States will stand with the global community in its response to a “human tragedy of immense magnitude, Secretary of State Colin Powell said January 6 as he addressed a special meeting on tsunami relief in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The government of Indonesia arranged the session in response to the December 26, 2004, earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 150,000 and injured more than 500,000, according to the latest estimates from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Powell said the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began distributing assistance the day after the disaster struck. “USAID also has provided over 16,000 tons of rice and soybeans, and more food is being delivered every day. Over 60,000 families in Banda Aceh [Indonesia] have received water purification kits so that people will have clean water to drink.

The United States has pledged $350 million in government funding so far, and recognizes that increases in that amount could be necessary as the dimensions of the damage are better understood.  U.S. citizens and corporations have also donated approximately $200 million to relief efforts, according to Powell.

Beyond those figures, the U.S. military also is pouring significant manpower and resources into the effort, Powell said.  More than 14,000 military personnel and a total of 19 naval vessels are at work in the region already.

“We have dispatched forty cargo and patrol aircraft and over 50 helicopters, and they have delivered over 450 tons of food, supplies and equipment as of [January 5], Powell said. “Additional air and naval support is on the way. And we hope to double the number of helicopters that are operating in the region.

The United States organized a core group of nations (India, Japan, Australia and the United States) to mobilize the relief effort just days after the tsunami struck. Powell said that group has served its purpose, and is now folding its efforts into relief measures being coordinated by the United Nations.

For additional information, go to “U.S. Response to Tsunami and Earthquake in Asia at:

Following is the State Department transcript of Powell's remarks:

(begin text)

[U.S. Department of State]

Remarks at the ASEAN Leader's Special Meeting on Tsunami Relief

Secretary Colin L. Powell

Jakarta Convention Center

Jakarta, Indonesia

January 6, 2005

Thank you very much, Mr. President. Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be here today representing President Bush and the American people. I'd like to begin by expressing my appreciation for the crucial role that ASEAN is playing in responding to this terrible tragedy, and to let you know, all of you, that the United States will continue to stand with you as this relief and reconstruction effort proceeds.

On behalf of President Bush and the American people, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to all of the nations who have suffered such a heartbreaking loss of life. The President wants you to know that the affected nations will have the full support of the United States as they go through this process of rebuilding their societies, rebuilding families, rebuilding industry, rebuilding homes and schools.

All of us here today recognize that this is a human tragedy of immense magnitude that does require a global response. We saw that vividly illustrated in the presentations we had this morning and on the video presentations that we saw, especially. In the course of my career as a soldier and more recently as a diplomat, I've been involved in many, many humanitarian relief operations. I've had to respond as a commander to any number of natural disasters over the years, but nothing in my experience prepared me for this disaster: 12 countries affected in different continents, separated by thousands of miles. It truly is unprecedented.

And Governor Jeb Bush, the Governor in Florida, and I had a chance to examine the situation in Thailand and in Indonesia, and I look forward to going to Sri Lanka tomorrow to get a better appreciation of the damage that was done, so that we can make full reports to the President of the United States and to the American Congress and to the American people. And in those presentations to our folks back home we will also note the presence of representatives from so many nations here today and all of the representatives of the international community, all of us coming together to deal with this crisis and to help the nations as they rebuild for a brighter future.

President Bush, of course, knows of the suffering and he's already mobilized the United States Government, including our emergency response resources and our military assets. The United States Government has pledged $350 million for relief and reconstruction, and we know full well that as the true dimension of this tragedy continues to emerge it may be necessary for us to make a larger contribution. And, our Congress has already indicated its willingness to support the President in this initial $350 million contribution and a willingness to do more as we understand the full dimensions of the catastrophe.

The United States began dispensing aid on the ground the day after the tsunami hit. We swiftly answered the early call of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The U.S. Agency for International Development's Disaster Assistance Response Teams quickly deployed to India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. These teams consist of food, water and sanitation specialists, military liaisons, and search and rescue squads from a number of U.S. cities that came along with our disaster response teams. USAID also has provided over 16,000 tons of rice and soybeans, and more food is being delivered every day. Over 60,000 families in Banda Aceh have received water purification kits so that people will have clean water to drink. In close coordination with the government of Thailand, we have established, as you heard earlier, a support center in Utapao -- a regional support center under the direction of a Marine three-star general who will be able to coordinate all of the efforts that we are making in the region. And I would like to again express my thanks to the government of Thailand for their willingness to use Utapao in this way.

The United States also worked with friends and allies in the region to form a core group consisting of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, and later expanding the membership to Canada and the Netherlands. In cooperation with the United Nations and other international and non-governmental organizations, these core nations and others sprang into action, putting unique capabilities and ready resources in the region immediately to work supporting the relief efforts of the governments in the region.

The core group helped to catalyze the international response. But now having served its purpose, the core group will fold itself into the broader coordination efforts of the United Nations as the entire international community works to support the nations who have suffered this tragedy.

Above and beyond the $350 million in U.S. government funding for emergency response, the United States military is also providing substantial help, at considerable additional expense. As a former soldier, it gives me great pride to see our soldiers, and our sailors, our airmen and our marines, our coastguardsmen working around the clock alongside our AID relief workers and other civilian members of my government--all working together to bring life-saving relief to desperate survivors.

Over 14,000 of our military personnel are deployed to the region to help. The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Group and the USS Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Group are on station with helicopters and planes for search, rescue and disaster relief operations. They are providing critical coordination and communications support, and helicopter lift support for relief operations. Six cargo pre-positioned ships are en route to the region with the capability of providing additional support, as well as the capability of providing over 90,000 gallons of fresh water every day in addition to other relief supplies that are being carried aboard these ships.

In addition to these 19 naval vessels, we have dispatched forty cargo and patrol aircraft and over 50 helicopters, and they have delivered over 450 tons of food, supplies and equipment as of yesterday. Additional air and naval support is on the way. And we hope to double the number of helicopters that are operating in the region.

We have been working hard with host governments to move the supplies from the major distribution points at sea ports and airports, in order to get retail distribution of food, medicine and clean water directly into the hands of those who are most in need. The helicopters of course are a unique asset to do this. But of all the assets that the United States is mobilizing to respond to this disaster, the greatest asset of all is the generosity of the American people.

As you know, President Bush has asked former President Bush and President Clinton to head and coordinate the private sector funding effort. Private contributions have been pouring in from all across the United States--from big corporations and the piggy banks of schoolchildren, from faith-based organizations and from private donors.

These private donations are now estimated at $200 million, and are increasing rapidly. This, of course, is in addition to the $350 million of government funding we have pledged.

We recognize that the governments of the affected nations have the primary role in rebuilding their countries. But in the face of a disaster of this immensity, international help and cooperation is essential. The United States welcomes the coordinating role of the United Nations. Secretary General Annan and his colleagues can count on our full support and we look forward to participating in the UN Donors Conference in Geneva on January 11.

We also support the creation of a regional tsunami warning system, one for the Indian Ocean, so that the people of this region will not live in fear of such a terrible tragedy befalling them again.

In the days and months ahead, the United States will continue to stand with the suffering nations of this region in the same spirit of humanity, generosity and good will that president Yudhoyono and the ASEAN leaders have shown in calling us together today.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Released on January 6, 2005

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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