|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-321607 Russia Tsunami Aid (L-O)
TITLE=RUSSIA / TSUNAMI AID
HEADLINE: Russia Sends Tons of Aid and Relief Equipment to Tsunami Disaster Zone
INTRO: Russia has sent a series of transport planes to countries in the tsunami disaster zone carrying tons of foodstuffs and other equipment to help in relief efforts. And officials say that more flights will leave in the coming days. Bill Gasperini has this report from Moscow.
TEXT: Several planes have departed during the past week carrying food, water purification equipment, and medicines to countries in the tsunami zone.
The planes include a giant Antonov-124, which officials say carried about 100 tons of relief supplies to Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the disaster.
A military spokesman says that 20 more flights will depart in the next few days carrying a mobile field hospital where doctors will be able to assist victims in desperate need of treatment.
In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia plans to send 20-thousand tons of grain to the countries affected.
Kremlin officials say Mr. Putin has spoken with the leaders of the four hardest-hit nations to offer help in coping with the effects of the earthquake and tidal waves on December 26th which have killed at least 160-thousand people.
International health organizations say the death toll could double due to epidemics unless medical aid does not reach those most in need soon.
Millions more have been left homeless, which will require a large-scale reconstruction program over the long-term.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry has extensive experience working in disaster zones, including earthquakes that struck Turkey and Greece several-years ago.
Government officials say at least 10 Russians on vacation in Thailand died when the tsunamis struck resort areas where they were staying.
Another 16 who were at the hard-hit island of Phuket are feared dead, while several dozen more are unaccounted for.
The number of Russians vacationing in Asia was not as high as other countries because year-end vacations in Russia do not start until New Year's Eve, almost a week after the disaster struck. (SIGNED)
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