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American Forces Press Service

Tsunami Aid Effort Continues As Relief Agencies Get Funds

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2005 - About $92 million of the $350 million pledged by the United States to aid victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake-tsunami has been provided to international relief organizations, a U.S. Agency for International Development official reported today from Thailand.

More funds will be allocated, as required, to U. N. and nongovernmental entities participating in disaster relief efforts in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and other stricken South and Southeast Asian nations, Tom Fry, head of the USAID disaster relief assessment team, said during a news conference at Utapao, Thailand. USAID is the U.S. government agency responsible for economic and humanitarian assistance around the world.

The tsunami relief effort has now moved "probably beyond" the first phase of such operations, said Fry, who works at Combined Support Force 536's Utapao headquarters.

The earthquake-caused tsunami killed more than 150,000 people, with Indonesia being the hardest-hit area with estimates of more than 100,000 dead.

Besides continued delivery of food, water and medical supplies across the region, Fry noted that recovery assessments addressing longer-term medical needs and infrastructure repair also are under way.

For example, Fry noted, USAID and CSF 536 personnel recently toured the northwestern coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, to assess "potential health issues" that may emerge in the wake of the tsunami.

"Malaria is a concern," Fry acknowledged, as well as a possible outbreak of measles that could target local children under age 5. He said some international aid organizations working in the area "could be prepared to take some actions" to deter a possible malaria or measles outbreak.

Tsunami relief efforts "continue to improve," reported Navy Rear Adm. Victor G. Guillory, CSF 536 deputy commander of naval forces, who accompanied Fry at the press briefing. Guillory noted that the support force has distributed almost 3 million pounds of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies.

More than 15,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, the admiral noted, are providing tsunami relief support, and 24 U.S. Navy ships and one Coast Guard vessel are deployed in the region. This group, he said, includes the recently arrived amphibious vessel USS Fort McHenry, which was deployed from its port in Japan.

"We are proud," the admiral said, "to be part of this global effort to help the afflicted nations reach the road to recovery."

Guillory confirmed reports that the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln had temporarily steamed farther away from the Indonesian coast to conduct fixed- wing aircraft training that requires more room.

This training had "little or no impact" on the Lincoln's disaster relief mission, the admiral pointed out, noting that the carrier's helicopters have no trouble making trips to the coast and back.

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