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10 January 2005

Pacific Command Report, January 10: Tsunami Relief Update

Adm. Fargo says U.S. is committed to partnership for quick relief

U.S. Navy Admiral Thomas Fargo says the United States is committed to a partnership with host nations, non-governmental organizations and private voluntary groups to bring "quick relief for those in need" in South and Southeast Asia.

Fargo told reporters in Hawaii, and those listening via teleconference at the Pentagon January 10, that hundreds of entities are involved in the relief effort, and all bring unique skills to a region that has experienced devastation "beyond imagination." In some locations, he said, the force of the tsunami moved as far as four miles inland from coastal villages, dragging with it everything in its path.

To help address the situation, Fargo said U.S. military forces --- numbering over 14,000 -- will finish up the first phase of operations delivering relief supplies to the hardest hit areas, then moving into a recovery phase, and, finally, signing off from their temporary duties when the reconstruction phase has ended.

The U.S. military has built up its capacity to deliver humanitarian relief from seaborne platforms such as the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, thereby allowing helicopters to ferry supplies and emergency medical personnel to isolated locations and move some stricken victims to areas where they can received more sophisticated medical care. As a result of the ships' positions, the U.S. presence ashore is "relatively modest," the admiral said.

Much of the needed relief capacity is now in the region, Fargo said, shifting the focus to coordinating the delivery of what is there and to identifying --- with the help of host nations ---the highest priority tasks.

Every year the military forces of Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia and the United States maneuver together as part of the joint "Cobra Gold" training exercise. This annual endeavor has paid off in this catastrophe, Fargo said, because many of the relationships and skill sets that have been developed over the years are now being used.

Asked how long the U.S. military might labor on the relief effort, Fargo said it is difficult to pin down the duration of the mission, but he pointed to another U.S. humanitarian relief effort in May and June 1991. Some 7,000 U.S. military personnel provided assistance to Bangladesh as part of "Operation Sea Angel" in the wake of destruction wrought by Tropical Cyclone Marian. He said that operation lasted about 60 days.

Fargo said he has been in talking to his counterparts throughout the U.S. Pacific Command, for which he has command authority, as well as with U.S. ambassadors and their country teams to be sure military and civilian forces have what they need. He also said he will travel to the region January 14.

A graphic showing the scope of the U.S. humanitarian relief effort may be viewed on the U.S Pacific Command's web site at http://www.pacom.mil/special/0412asia/images/050110-map-h.jpg

For additional information, see "U.S. Response to Tsunami and Earthquake in Asia" at: http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/global_issues/recovery.html

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



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