Bush announces formation of coalition
CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush announced Wednesday the United States, India, Australia and Japan have formed an international coalition to coordinate worldwide relief and reconstruction efforts for the Asian region ravaged by a deadly earthquake and tsunamis.
“We will prevail over this destruction,” Bush said from his Texas ranch in his first comments on the disaster. Officials for the region placed the death toll at nearly 77,000, but the international Red Cross and others feared that more than 100,000 have died.
Bush said the catastrophe had “brought loss and grief to the world that is beyond our comprehension,” and he pledged a multifaceted response from the United States that goes far beyond the $35 million initially pledged.
In the short-term, the help will include damage assessment teams and U.S. military manpower, such as a Marine expeditionary force followed by long-term rebuilding assistance. He said he’d also examine a suggestion from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to consider putting a moratorium on the debt of hard-hit Somalia and Indonesia.
“We’ll look at all requests,” said Bush, who talked by phone Wednesday morning with leaders from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. “We’re still in the stage of immediate help. But slowly but surely, the size of the problem will become known, particularly when it comes to rebuilding infrastructure and community to help these affected parts of the world get back up on their feet.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Director of Operations Lt. General James T. Conway said the Pentagon will divert several U.S. warships and helicopters to the region. Some of the ships will be used to provide fresh drinking water, and can produce up to 90,000 gallons a day, Conway said.
Andrew Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, asked Americans to contribute cash, which can be used immediately. Do not send old clothes, canned goods or medicines, he said.