Identification of Victims in Thailand Might Take Months

U.S. DoD Photo

JAKARTA (RIA Novosti, by Mikhail Tsyganov) – Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who recently arrived on a Thai island of Phuket, believes that the identification of the victims of tsunami might last for weeks or even months because in many cases the authorities will have to rely on DNA analysis and dental records due to the fact that bodies decompose quickly in equatorial climate and local morgues lack sufficient space to keep corpses.

Australia, which has acquired experience in dealing with such situations after explosions in Bali in 2002 when 88 Australians were killed, has already allocated funds to set up an international identification lab on Phuket island. Pathologists from 19 countries will work there. Many of them are already participating in rescue operations on the island.

According to press secretary of the Russian Embassy in Thailand Irina Borisyuk, "in general, the situation on Phuket island has stabilized." At the same time, she categorically refused to make any predictions regarding the conclusion of identification procedures because the situation is absolutely unclear at this point.

According to official data, 5,187 people, including 2,463 foreign tourists died in Thailand. Another 3,810 are still missing.

Bangkok Post newspaper announced on Tuesday that many foreign tourists traveled from disaster zones on the island of Phuket and in the south-west of the kingdom to other areas of Thailand which were not affected by the natural disaster. As a result, the resorts in these areas are overcrowded by foreign tourists and some of them have to spend nights camping on beaches. In particular, 30 to 35 thousand tourists arrive every day on the island of Samui, which has hotels capable of accommodating 13,000 tourists at most, the newspaper emphasizes. Local authorities have started to set up tent camps to accommodate the new arrivals.

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Powell Surveys Tsunami Devastation in
Indonesia’s Aceh Province

By Nancy-Amelia Collins

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (R), Indonesian Social Welfare minister Alwi Shihab (C) and Florida Governor Jeb Bush walk at the airport in Banda Aceh, Indonesia January 5, 2005 after touring tsunami-hit areas in the Indonesian province of Aceh. Fresh dangers stalked efforts to help millions of tsunami victims on Wednesday as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced his shock at the devastation he saw touring the worst-hit areas in Indonesia.

Photo by Romeo Ranoco / Reuters Photo

Banda Aceh, Indonesia (January 5, 2005) (VOA) — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has visited the tsunami-wrecked region of Indonesia’s Aceh Province Wednesday pledging to help the devastated area.

A visibly moved Colin Powell said after flying over Banda Aceh Wednesday that he has a much better understanding of the enormous amount of damage the December 26 tsunami did to Aceh – located at the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.

Mr. Powell says he has never seen anything to compare with this damage.

"With respect to what I’ve seen in the course of my career, I’ve been in war and I’ve been in a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations but I have never seen anything like this," he said.

The massive tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, killed up to a 150,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean countries – with two thirds of those killed in Aceh.

An unprecedented international relief response is now underway with the United States pledging to contribute $350 million of the more than $2 billion in official aid.

Washington has committed more than 13,000 troops and 14 ships to deliver supplies, power, fresh water, medical and engineering help. The U.S. Secretary says the United States will increase the number of helicopters flying relief missions to areas impossible to reach because roads and bridges and most infrastructures have been wiped out by the tsunami.

"We will be increasing the number of helicopters that will be available to support our TNI [Indonesian military] and Indonesian authorities and we will respond to requests we get from the Indonesian authorities for shelter materials and food," said Mr. Powell.

Officials estimate there are at least 400,000 homeless in Aceh, and most are living in makeshift refugee camps along the washed out roads, in the forests, or anywhere they can find a spot of land.

The United States has embarked on a major aid effort in close cooperation with the Indonesian government. This is a major change as the United States had suspended many forms of military cooperation since 1992 due to concerns over human rights abuses by the Indonesian Armed Forces.

Mr. Powell will attend a one-day international disaster summit in Jakarta on Thursday – before continuing his tour of the countries most affected by the tsunami.

Articles Related to the Tsunami Disaster:

** Bush, Clinton to Head Relief Fund; Tsunami Aid Continues
** Remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell Outside of Indonesian Embassy after Signing Condolence Book
** Russian Rescuers Continue Their Work on Sri Lanka
** Current Number of Missing Russian Tourists on Phuket is 36 People
** Briefing on the U.S. Government Relief Efforts in Asia
** United States Government Response to the Tsunami Disaster in Indonesia
** More than 50 Russian Tourists are Missing in Thailand
** Bush Mourns Tsunami Victims, Highlights Relief Efforts
** Navy ‘Angels’ Delivering Relief Supplies to Indonesia
** U.S. Pledges $350M to Relief as Indonesia Missions Begin
** Ships, Aircraft, Personnel Converge on Disaster Zone
** Tsunami Toll Hits 120,000; 10 Israelis Still Missing
** Thailand Says 2 Israelis Might Be Among 74,000 Killed by Tsunami
** Israel Sends Aid to Thailand, Sri Lanka
** Hundreds of Israelis Missing in Southeast Asia Following Earthquake Disaster
** Statement on Bay of Bengal Earthquake and Tidal Waves
** International Community to Aid Nations Hit by Quake, Tsunami
** UN Says Cost of Tsunami Disaster Without Precedent
** Strike Group Commander: Ships Ready to Assist
** FBI Offers Tips for Searching the Whereabouts of Tsunami Victims
** Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Honors the Memory of the Victims of the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunamis

Bush, Clinton to Head Relief Fund;
Tsunami Aid Continues

By Jim Garamone

President Bush, center, announces, Monday, Jan. 3, 2005, in the Roosevelt room at the White House, that he is appointing former Presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and Bill Clinton, right, to head up efforts to raise money for the massive American relief operation in the Asian tsunami-battered regions.

Photo by Ron Edmonds / AP Photo

Jan. 3, 2005 — Former Presidents Bush and Clinton will head a fundraising effort to get Americans to donate money to reliable charities to aid tsunami victims in the Indian Ocean area, President Bush announced.

The president also praised the way American servicemembers have responded to the unprecedented international disaster in the region.

More than 150,000 people are dead in the "arc of destruction" that spreads from Thailand to the Horn of Africa, Bush said. He announced that U.S. flags will fly at half-staff for the victims. The U.S. government has pledged $350 million in aid for the stricken area, and that amount could grow, pending the results of ongoing assessments.

"We’re showing the compassion of our nation in the swift response, but the greatest source of America’s generosity is not our government, it’s the good heart of the American people," Bush said. "In the week since the tsunami struck, private citizens have contributed millions of dollars for disaster relief and reconstruction."

He announced that former President Clinton and former President Bush will head a nationwide charitable fundraising effort. "Both presidents know the great decency of our people," Bush said. "They bring tremendous leadership experience to this role, and they bring good hearts. I am grateful to the former Presidents Clinton and Bush for taking on this important responsibility and for serving our country once again."

The U.S. military response in the region continues and grows, Bush said. "American military assets in the region are now aiding recovery efforts," he said. "Patrol and cargo aircraft have been surveying damage and delivering supplies for several days. Air Force C-130s are flying aid missions 24 hours a day."

The U.S. Navy’s Abraham Lincoln Carrier Battle Group is off the coast of Sumatra and transporting relief supplies by helicopter. "Other naval and Marine assets will arrive shortly to generate clean water and provide further logistical help," Bush said.

In addition to the Abraham Lincoln group, the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group will be arriving in the region Jan. 4, said Marine Brig. Gen. John Allen, DoD’s coordinator for tsunami-relief efforts.

Allen stressed that military forces are working very closely with host nations. "These operations are operations for the countries themselves," Allen said during a State Department briefing today. "We work very closely with Thailand; we’re working very closely with Indonesia; we’re working very closely with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, because it will be in those areas in which the relief process will occur, and it is their relief."

When the Bonhomme Richard group reaches the area, its 24 helicopters will join the 19 of the Lincoln group delivering humanitarian supplies to isolated areas. Another organization, Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron 3, is also headed to the theater, Allen said.

The six ships in the prepositioning squadron, from Guam and Japan, are very large container ships. They can store up to 90,000 gallons of fresh water and can produce tens of thousands of gallons of fresh water a day, and helicopters can operate from aboard these vessels.

Air Force planes are providing much of the lift capacity, Allen said. "The Air Force has delivered, at this juncture, 430,000 pounds of supplies into the region," he said. "C-130s are converging on the region; there are about 17 on the ground now."

Larger aircraft — C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-5 Galaxys — also are bringing in needed supplies and other relief equipment.

U.S. Department of State

Remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell Outside of Indonesian Embassy after Signing Condolence Book

Washington, D.C.

December 30, 2004

Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia (Jan. 4, 2005) – An Indonesian family waits for food and humanitarian relief at Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. Medical teams from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) set-up a triage site located on Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base, in Banda Aceh, Sumatra. The two teams worked together with members of the Australian Air Force to provide initial medical care to victims of the Tsunami-stricken coastal regions. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand.

Photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jacob J. Kirk / U.S. Navy Photo

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.


QUESTION: What is the United States doing and what is the world going to do to help in this crisis?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are mobilizing all our assets to help. As you know, we made an initial infusion of money, some $35 million, but we know that this is just the beginning of a much greater need and much more significant commitment from the United States. We have airplanes arriving with aid now. Some six airplanes are landing or in the process of landing and more will follow. U.S. Naval Forces are on the way to the region and will begin arriving next week, and they should be able to provide some additional assistance. Search and rescue teams have left from Los Angeles and from Fairfax County, Virginia, to assist in rescue efforts. We’re beefing up our disaster relief teams in the region to make an assessment.

We’re also reaching out to all Americans to make a contribution. Americans are a very generous people and we hope that they will go to our websites, state.gov or usaid.gov, and from there they can learn about agencies that are collecting money that will be used for the relief effort. And I encourage all Americans to participate in this relief effort.

The President has made it clear that the United States will do everything we can to assist those nations that have been affected. Sri Lanka and Indonesia are the two nations that are in greatest need. We’re also, of course, working with Thailand and other nations that were affected.

The whole international community has to come together on this and, as you know, we formed a core group of nations the other day, as the President announced yesterday. That core group is working. We’ll be in a television conference with Kofi Annan at 11 o’clock this morning to make sure that our efforts are coordinated with the United Nations.

This is an unprecedented tragedy. In my many years of government, I’ve never come across one this large. But these things tend to have a cycle to them. You get the initial reports coming in, you make some preliminary assessments, you start the aid flowing, you start the money flowing, you then send out response teams and assessment teams. And when you get a better understanding of what the needs are and how the countries affected can absorb the relief effort that’s heading their way, then you start to fill the pipeline. And that’s what we’re doing now, with money, with food, with assets. And as the need becomes clearer, you can expect the United States to make more significant contributions in the days, weeks and months ahead.

And it is not just an immediate humanitarian relief effort. It’s a rebuilding effort. You saw the destruction that has taken place. Homes have to be rebuilt. Businesses have to be rebuilt. This is the principal responsibility of the governments concerned, but they will need help, and they can be sure that the international community is responding to that need and you can be sure that the United States, at President Bush’s direction, will be in the forefront of that response.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how much —

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you wrote a very heart — it looks like half a page, almost a page, of heartfelt note, and this is your second embassy. What are you writing on behalf of the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: On behalf of President and Mrs. Bush and the American people, extending sympathy and condolences to the nations involved and the people involved. This is a terrible tragedy. The reports from Indonesia suggest that as many as 45,000 now have been lost. It’s rather unprecedented. And so this is the time for us to all join together in solidarity to express our condolences to the families of those who were lost, but also let the people who are in need know that we are coming to assist their governments in helping them and to make sure that we have a coordinated effort with the international community. And so I just wanted to leave a message of sympathy and a message of solidarity.

QUESTION: Can you tell us — Voice of America Indonesia Service. Can you tell us how much of relief is going to Indonesia?

SECRETARY POWELL: Right now I cannot give you a breakdown because so many relief organizations are on the move. And what we have to do is make sure that there’s a good assessment from the country. We need the countries to tell us what they need and where they want the resources applied. And so that’s why we have dispatched our disaster assistance relief teams to make those assessments, working with the country. There’s nothing worse than sending resources to the wrong place. It costs money to move equipment, to move supplies. We want to make sure we’re moving these things to the right place, and it takes a little bit of time.

But this disaster struck last Saturday night. The very next morning, the United States had task forces established and set up, and by Monday morning we were beginning to allocate money to the relief effort, and by Tuesday afternoon we had allocated for the separate $35 million and we had set up a core group to work on relief. And as the President said when he spoke to the world yesterday, we would do more to make sure that everybody understands that America is a compassionate nation, a generous nation that can always be counted on during this time of crisis and tragedy.

And so we are hard at work with my colleagues in the Pentagon, my colleagues in the U.S. Agency for International Development. Everyone else in the United States Government who has a role to play, is being pulled together in the task force under Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman. We’re working very well together and you will see a significant step-up in the flow of aid.

And I also will be in touch with members of Congress over the next several days to alert them to what the needs may be as we move further down the road, not just for humanitarian relief but for the rebuilding and reconstruction effort that has to follow.

QUESTION: Congress will have to appropriate funds?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that’s what we have to look at. There are just so many funds that are immediately available to me or to the Administrator of AID. When something like this comes along, we very often have to take the money from other accounts in order to deal with the immediate problem, and then we have to determine how to replenish those accounts. And so this is part of the process of determining where the resources are coming from. And if more resources are needed, then we work with the Office of Management and Budget, and ultimately it’s something that the Congress has to be involved in.

In this case, because I think the need will be so great, obviously I think the Congress will have a role to play. But that remains to be determined. Right now, get the aid flowing, get the assistance teams in, make a good assessment, work with the countries, work with the international community, and come up with a good statement of the need so that we can apply the resources to that need and not waste resources.

And once again, I’m so pleased that the response we see from the American people with respect to private donations. Just to single out one, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, recognizing it’s a pharmaceutical company, they decided to give money because money is fungible and money can be used, money can be sent to one of the humanitarian organizations that knows exactly what is needed and purchase the right response to that need, purchase the right equipment or food or whatever might be needed. As opposed to shipping commodities over, ship the money to the agencies and let them spend the money in the best possible way and apply the money where the need is greatest.

Thank you.

Russian Rescuers Continue Their Work on Sri Lanka

MOSCOW, January 4 (RIA Novosti) – The rescuers sent by Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry operate on the Sri Lanka island hit by the tsunamis, providing aid to hundreds of people.

The rescuers working in the south of island have split into three groups, the ministry’s spokesman told RIA Novosti. "One of the groups is clearing the debris in the Kalamula village, the second one gives aid to people in the refugee camp in the town of Kalutara and the third group helps the local rescuers," he said.

The helicopter Bo-105 of the Emergency Situations Ministry, delivered to Sri Lanka from Moscow, is used in the interest of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The Russian rescuers are expected to work on Sri Lanka for a few more days.

The death of 30,196 people there has been confirmed in latest news reports.

The first days of 2005 have brought the news of the heavy plight of the tsunami victims in Somalia, which was reached by the waves moving at the speed of a jet liner from the earthquake epicenter 4,500 km away. Not less than 50,000 people in Somali are in urgent need of food, water, shelter and medical aid, said Yusuf Mohammed Ismail, an official spokesman of the Somalian president. At present the death of about 200 people caused by the tsunami has been confirmed, and dozens people are missing.

The total confirmed number of people killed by the tsunamis and earthquakes in twelve countries in the Indian Ocean is 144,970, according to a UN report.

Current Number of Missing Russian
Tourists on Phuket is 36 People

MOSCOW, January 4 (RIA Novosti) – The number of missing Russian tourists, who were vacationing on the Thai island of Phuket when tsunami hit the island on December 26, 2004, is currently 36 people, announced Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Yakovenko.

"This figure was determined on the basis of the most recent data received by the operative headquarters and the Thai immigration authorities," Mr. Yakovenko said.

He also confirmed that the number of Russian tourists who were killed by tsunami had reached ten people. Two of the bodies – mother and son Lipuntsovy had been identified and returned to relatives. Eight other bodies of Russian tourists are being identified at present.

Mr. Yakovenko reported that the Russian Embassy in Thailand identified 730 Russian tourists who were vacationing on the island of Phuket and neighboring islands at the time of the natural catastrophe. They were not affected by the disaster.

The number of Russian tourists on vacation in other parts of Thailand, including zones unaffected by tsunami is 130 people. The list was composed according to information provided by relatives and friends of Russian tourists by phone calls to the Russian ministry’s operative headquarters and to the Russian Embassy in Thailand.

According to Mr. Yakovenko, the officials from the Russian Embassy in Thailand are currently focusing their efforts on the search for missing Russian tourists who might have been in the disaster zone. The search area primarily includes the island of Phuket and small neighboring islands.

The U.S. State Department

Briefing on the U.S. Government Relief Efforts in Asia

Washington, DC

With USAID Assistant Administrator James Kunder; Brigadier General John Allen, Principal Director Asia and Pacific Affairs, Office of Secretary of Defense, and Department of Defense

January 3, 2005

Two injured foreign tourists are sent to a hospital after a tsunami hit Phuket, about 862 km (536 miles) south of Bangkok, December 26, 2004. An unprecedented tidal wave sowed chaos in Thailand’s southern tourist playground on Sunday, tossing cars around and bursting into luxury hotels on Phuket, flattening ‘The Beach’ movie island and killing 257 people.

Photo by Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters Photo

MR. ADAM ERELI (Deputy Spokesman): Thank you for coming, everybody. We’re pleased to have at the State Department today, two of the — actually, three of the people who are very directly and intimately involved with American relief efforts to the tsunami victims. They are Mr. James Kunder, the Assistant Administrator of USAID for Asia and the Near East, and General John Allen, Principal Director of Asia and Pacific Affairs at the International Security Affairs Bureau of the Department of Defense.

The two gentlemen will brief us on an update on relief activities for the victims of the tsunami disaster and then will be available to take your questions. We’ll try to keep this to about half an hour because there are other events they have to go on to.

We also have to answer questions, Mr. Bill Garvelink, who is Deputy Assistant Administrator for Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID.

So we’ll begin with Assistant Administrator Kunder and then go to General Allen.

MR. KUNDER: Thank you. Let me give you a quick overview because, number one, I know you have questions; and number two, I’m told you have our latest USAID fact sheet which has pretty comprehensive numbers.

Basically, at this stage, in a crisis of this magnitude, we want to focus on three things: number one is, continued assessment, we want to get eyes on the ground and make sure we know what kind — what the most urgent needs are in the affected parts of the region; second, we want to get resources mobilized into the region; and third, we want to get those resources coordinated and distributed in the region.

First of all, as has been said before, this is probably the largest natural disaster in terms of scope, area affected, and numbers of people affected. And I’m talking about not just the estimated 140,000 killed, but the estimated three to five million people directly affected by this crisis, and the one million plus displaced. In terms of those measures, this is probably the largest natural disaster to which the U.S. Government has responded.

In terms of the three areas I’ve identified, number one, assessment, since we last briefed on Thursday, when Administrator Natsios was here, we have more than 135 U.S. Government employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development out in the field assessing the scope of this crisis. And I know General Allen is going to be talking about some of the military teams that are out there working — or working together to get a clearer picture of precisely what the needs are.

This is a classic situation where the needs are going to be of such magnitude that we’ve got to make sure that we ready, aim, fire — not ready, fire, aim. So we’re trying to get a clear picture of what the needs are on the ground. We have now gotten international assessment teams and government teams from the affected governments into all regions of Thailand that were affected, all regions of India that were affected, all regions of Sri Lanka that were affected, the Maldives Islands. And in most regions of Sri Lanka that were affected, there are still isolated — excuse me — except for Indonesia — there are some isolated regions of Aceh in which international teams have not yet arrived. They are on the ground now trying to reach those last isolated sections of Aceh.

So, in terms of assessment, compared to where we were last Thursday, we have a much clearer picture of what the needs are on the ground and we’re looking both at immediate relief needs and then the needs to prevent any further deaths occurring from epidemic disease or shelter or lack of food or water; second, in terms of resources, obviously, since we last briefed you, the size of the United States Government pledge has increased from the $35 million that we were reporting last Thursday to the $350 million that the President has announced. Overall, there are on the order of $2.1 billion the UN is reporting from international donors that have been amassed and are flowing into the region; but third, and critically, it’s important to get those resources managed and distributed in the region. And that is probably the single most important thing we’re focused on right now.

Resources, in terms of water, medical supplies, food supplies, have reached many major hubs in Colombo, in Bangkok, in the air strips both in Jakarta and in eastern Sumatra, and we are doing what we would normally be doing at this stage of the process, which is managing the supplies that get to those hubs and establishing hub-and-spoke systems so that the relief supplies are getting out to the most isolated regions. They are flowing. There are some parts of Aceh where we’ve had to rely on some dropped air supplies because the situation is so inaccessible because of the roads and bridges being wiped out by the tsunami and the earthquake that preceded it. We have teams working in most of those areas now, but that is the critical part, is getting supplies out to the most isolated areas.

So, in terms of how we look at this right now, we’re getting a much clearer picture of the situation, we’re getting assets into the region and we’re getting the assets distributed.

We are already beginning now our planning for reconstruction activities. There has been some reporting about how already some signs of life are reemerging, markets being reestablished, even in hard-hit areas of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In addition to delivering relief supplies, what we will classically do in this kind of situation is to try to get some cash in at the grassroots level to create effective demand at the grassroots level so that the normal private sector and commercial systems can start flowing.

As I think all of you know, part of the problem in major natural disasters of this kind is a lack of supplies, but an equally pressing problem is the lack of resources by those who have been directly affected. There are still blankets, food supplies, drinking water, shelter material clearly on the island of Sri Lanka. There are the same set of supplies clearly on the island of Sumatra and in the affected — and in other parts of the region that are affected by this tsunami.

What we’re doing, for example, is putting $10 million into Sri Lanka in the affected areas for cash-for-work programs. This, number one, gets people back to work and doing cleanup, but it gets some cash into their hands. We’re talking about getting the affected populations, paying them to do cleanup work so that they can start going to their local shopkeepers, those local shopkeepers can start requesting food, since all of these people have been affected. The shopkeepers have been affected. The individuals who lost their homes have been affected. We’re trying to get some cash into the grassroots. We’re considering — so that we can effectively draw resources that are in the region into the affected areas to supplement the relief supplies that are coming outside. We think this will be an effective initial reconstruction intervention.

This also has a separate effect because what our assessment teams are telling us, and has been reported in the media, is that the psycho-social impact of this crisis is grave, people are still disoriented, still stunned by the magnitude of the crisis, and based on our experience in previous crises of this magnitude, it is important to get people back to work. And we hope these cash-for-work programs will begin to get people back to work and engaged in the cleanup process so that they can begin the psycho-social process of restoring their lives.

Those are what I would just give you a quick overview, obviously supplemented by this fact sheet that we’ve handed out — enormous magnitude of the crisis, a very, very large-scale relief operation underway, still trying to reach the most isolated regions, and the beginnings of our planning for reconstruction that will follow on the relief effort.

And I’ll turn it over to General Allen at this point.

BGEN ALLEN: Good morning. I’m Brigadier General John Allen, Principal Director of Asia Pacific Affairs within International Security Affairs and the Secretary’s Office of Secretary of Defense. Let me just brief you about the relationship of the Department of Defense to this relief mission, and then I’ll talk about where our forces are deployed and give you some idea of what they’re doing right now.

OSD, the Department of Defense and the services, are in support of this operation. We are teamed up very closely at every level with USAID and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. On the ground, at the various locations, we’ll call it OFDA — the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance — OFDA has lead. But there are military representatives standing shoulder to shoulder with OFDA, helping in the process of prioritizing the various requirements and ensuring that we are part of the process by which these supplies are moved forward so that they’re relevant and they’re efficiently moved.

Within minutes of our being notified of this crisis, military planners went to work and began to plan how the U.S. military might support the U.S. Government in the process of reducing the suffering and providing relief. Within hours, U.S. military forces were underway and moving to the region. Now we’re working very closely, as these forces arrive in the region, with those nations that need the assistance.

In the end, these operations are operations for the countries themselves. We work very closely with Thailand. We’re working very closely with Indonesia. We’re working very closely with Sri Lanka and the Maldives because it will be in those areas in which the relief process will occur and it is their relief, and we’re very conscious of that and we’re very, very conscious of their sovereignty and their national pride and we seek to work with them very, very closely.

The forces that we have in the theater right now, just north and slightly west of the northern tip of Sumatra, near Banda Aceh, is a carrier group, carrier strike group called the Abraham Lincoln, which is one of our major carriers with support ships; en route, and it should be arriving in the next day or so, is an expeditionary group known as the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. It is a element of ships that has at its core an amphibious ready group, three ships. One looks much like an aircraft carrier, the Bonhomme Richard, and there are some other support ships along.

There are 24 helicopters coming with the troops aboard the Bonhomme Richard, and there is a Marine Expeditionary Unit that is embarked in that expeditionary strike group. There are 19 helicopters aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, and those units are in fact involved right now, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Bonhomme Richard group, will be involved as well.

The other forces that are coming to the theater, surface forces, is an organization known as the Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Three. These are very large container ships, which are prepositioned military equipment, but they have tremendous capacity to support units ashore. They can store up to 90,000 gallons of fresh water. They can produce tens of thousands of gallons of fresh water a day per ship; six of them are coming. They also have helicopter flight decks. And there are other capabilities aboard those ships, which may, as the assessments and the needs are identified, play and tell seriously in providing the relief.

As well, from all around the world, air force airlift aircraft are converging on the scene, carrying in tremendous amounts of supplies; in fact, the air force has delivered, at this juncture, 430,000 pounds of supplies into the region: C-130s are converging on the region — there are about 17 on the ground now; strategic airlift, C-17s, C-5s, are also bringing in needed supplies; bringing in other equipment necessary for the relief as well.

So, as Mr. Kunder properly depicted it, the military response, in conjunction, as a part of the U.S. Government response, has been significant, it was instantaneous, and I would call it massive. And it is probably one of the largest military operations in support of humanitarian assistance or disaster relief that we have mounted in many, many years.

So, with that, I think I’ll end my introduction, and perhaps transition to questions.

QUESTION: Just a quick fact question.

GEN ALLEN: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I possibly missed it. Where did you say the Bonhomme and the container ships are head — are all three of these major forces going to the same point?

GEN ALLEN: They’re all converging on the disaster area.

QUESTION: Well, the area is a large area.

GEN ALLEN: I know. And there are needs and assessments that are being done, based on the capabilities, and as those assessments are done, as those needs are identified, then we’ll shift resources constantly throughout the theater in order to meet the needs as they exist and as they emerge.

QUESTION: Is there a pivotal point, or is there —

GEN ALLEN: Yes, there is.

QUESTION: And what is that point?

GEN ALLEN: On the ground, at a place called Utapao, which is an air base in Thailand, has stood up an organization known as Joint Task Force 536. Joint Task Force 536 is the central hub for the orchestration of these military forces that are arriving in the region.

Now, in Indonesia and in Thailand and in Sri Lanka, there will be something stood up called U.S. support groups, and these U.S. support groups are both a military entity but also very closely tied with the other U.S. Government elements that are there. They will orchestrate the relief for those countries on the ground.

Does that answer your question, sir?

QUESTION: Yes, sir, it does.


MR. ERELI: Andrea, do you have a question?

QUESTION: Sure. Actually, General, if you could please explain a little bit more about how these different ships and helicopters are going to be used and where exactly? You had mentioned at the beginning that the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group was going to be near Banda Aceh. Is that correct?

GEN ALLEN: The Abraham Lincoln is just to the north of Sumatra now. It has a number of helicopters, H60 model helicopters, which are flying off the Abraham Lincoln, in essence, 24 hours a day.

As you know, the west coast of Sumatra was very badly devastated by the effects of the tsunami. Its logistics infrastructure was affected tremendously — road networks, bridges, means of communications. All of that has created the situation where the ability for us to move things by surface has really been reduced, and in fact eliminated, for many of those regions.

So right now, the helicopters are flying off that aircraft carrier and delivering those very desperately needed supplies, whether they’re just water or food or shelter or clothing, to those points which are, at this juncture, assessed to be the in greatest need. And we’re cooperating very closely with the Indonesian authorities to ensure that their identification of needs drives the process by which we are moving these.

Now, a lot of the supplies are coming out of Banda Aceh and Madan, and as is the case normally with relief evolutions like this, as the world responds — in this case, as the United States responds, as the neighbors, countries who are neighboring respond, as the world responds — lots of things flow in. They flow in very quickly and they flow into airports and what we’ll call airheads and to port facilities that were not affected that can sustain them.

So, if you’re not careful, pretty quickly you have a buildup of supplies that you now must move forward. And the commanders who are on the scene are using those helicopters now to move as much of those supplies forward as they possibly can to ensure that those people who are isolated, those people who are in the greatest need, are receiving as much support as these helicopters can provide.

QUESTION: What about the container ships? The container ships and the Bonhomme Richard?

BGEN ALLEN: The Bonhomme Richard has, as I said, a number of helicopters aboard. Those helicopters are the CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters; CH-46, which is a medium helicopter; there are some light utility helicopters called the UH-1, the Hueys. Those helicopters will go immediately to work, as soon as they reach the objective area, and will assist in the process that is already underway through the Abraham Lincoln and continuing the process of moving relief supplies forward from those airheads that I mentioned before, Madan and Banda, and they’ll continue that process. And the intent is to start flowing through the helicopters as quickly as possible the forward movement of those supplies.

There are landing craft aboard some of these ships and we intend to use some of those landing craft that have unique capabilities, so we can, again, bypass the devastated infrastructure to be able to deliver to areas where the supplies are needed. And then in the MPS ships, as they’re called, there is significant capacity on those ships to produce fresh water, significant capacity to store fresh water, and those ships can be offloaded by helicopter. They all have flight decks. They can be offloaded by hose over the side into barges to barge the water ashore.

So, obviously, through the assessment process we’ll determine whether those ships can go pierside anywhere, but the effects of the tsunami, in terms of port facilities have also been dramatic, in terms of decreasing the draft that these ships can attain in the water.

QUESTION: Have there been military rescues that you could tell us about?

BGEN ALLEN: Military rescues?

QUESTION: I mean, survivors are still — fishermen turned up yesterday. The helicopters get down awfully — well, it’s kind of a two-point question. I heard a reference on radio, I guess, over the weekend that it’s very hard for the helicopters to get where they’d like to go best, where they most would like to go because of the chaos and the confusion. And then, you know, people think — and maybe it’s wrong, maybe it’s misguided, maybe it’s based on movies — but people think of helicopters as a very valuable rescue craft that can see what is going on and can focus rescue opportunities.

Can you get into that a little bit, if you think it’s germane, I mean, if you think something’s going on there?

BGEN ALLEN: Well, I think that, as with any crisis along these lines where people’s lives are instantaneously changed forever, where the social fabric of the society that they’ve known hasn’t changed over a period of time — it’s changed like that. When that occurs it becomes, in many cases, an issue of just human survival, and in some of these areas there have been days with no contact and no relief. So there will sometimes appear to be desperation, as these helicopters are heard, as they’re approaching the LZs, the landing zones, and as they’re trying to get into the landing zones.

We recognize that and we will operate that equipment, we will operate those aircraft, in every way possible so that there can be no injury to those people. We’re desperately trying to help them and try to reduce their suffering. I believe Mr. Kunder talked about the fact that there had been some drops, free drops of some of the gear. We’re just not going to kick it out the door. We’re going to make sure that if we drop it, it’s somewhere nearby but it’s not going to hurt someone. We’re going to work very hard to minimize any potential for that.

So —

QUESTION: (Inaudible), but I mean —

BGEN ALLEN: I understand.

QUESTION: — not being able to drop exactly where you’d like to —

BGEN ALLEN: You’re going to do the best you can to make that aircraft and its cargo relevant to the need on the ground. And if it’s possible to set that bird down in that landing zone right next to the village, we’re going to do it because we want to reduce the amount of work we’ve got to put the people through. But if we can’t get into that landing zone for whatever reason, we’re going to get as close as we possibly can. The point is we want to help them and we’ll adjust the tactical situation to account for the need.

QUESTION: And have you found any unfortunates bobbing in the sea or something? Have there been any dramatic U.S.-driven rescues?

BGEN ALLEN: I have no information in that regard.

MR. ERELI: Christophe.

QUESTION: Yes, General, during your preliminary remarks you said that you were very conscious of the sovereignty of the different states in the region and their national pride. Does that mean you are meeting — I don’t know — some resistance or some reluctance in certain places to cooperate with your forces?

BGEN ALLEN: I have no reports of that. It is the going-in position that we have that these countries are responsible for their rescue and for their relief, and ultimately for their reconstruction. And as Mr. Kunder said, we’re here to help them. And in the process of helping them, we want to ensure that they’re comfortable with what we bring to the table and they’re comfortable with the manner in which we interface with them so that they are, in fact, responsible for their relief. And that’s very important to us. It’s very important, I know, to the team that we have developed, the U.S. Government team that’s on the ground, and ultimately, I’m sure, the neighbors that are arriving offering help and the international community that is seeking to offer help.

QUESTION: Tell me if I’m wrong or mistaken, but did I hear you mention India in the list of countries with which you are cooperating? You mentioned Indonesia and others, but I don’t remember India.

BGEN ALLEN: Yes. Oh, yes. We talk to India constantly. And, of course, they have a significant capability to provide assistance and they are very much committed to that. I’ll let India speak for India, but I know they’re very committed to being relevant and assisting. They have a very close and historic relationship with Sri Lanka and we are talking to the Indians constantly on this issue at many different levels.

QUESTION: Early on, the Indian Government said it would take — thank you very much, but we’re sufficient, this very proud statement that we will take care of our own problems. Maybe there are two different things here, India helping Sri Lanka —

BGEN ALLEN: That’s correct, and that’s what I’m referring to.

QUESTION: But so far as India’s damage, India takes care of that?

BGEN ALLEN: We’re working about Sri Lanka. My comment is directed with regard to the relief of Sri Lanka and we’re coordinating with India in that regard.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on the same subject, I don’t believe you’ve mentioned Myanmar/Burma. Is there no contact at all? I mean, I understand the difficulty, political difficulties, but can you bring us up to date on any contact?

MR. KUNDER: I don’t believe we have any operations —

BGEN ALLEN: There was no disaster declaration there so we —

MR. KUNDER: The thing that would trigger an official U.S. Government response would be a disaster declaration either by the U.S. Ambassador or, in the absence of a U.S. Ambassador, the senior-most State Department official responsible. We had no disaster declaration for Myanmar.

And if I could just elaborate on this last point, I mean, please understand, the nature of working — first of all, the general is absolutely right. The Indians are assisting, and you’ll recall that the President announced the formation of a group with the Indians, the Australians and the Japanese, a core group to respond within the region. So, clearly, the Indians are actively involved.

Within India itself, I mean, not only do we naturally have an embassy there, but we have an ongoing U.S. foreign assistance program in India. We have good bilateral arrangements with the Indians. And what has happened is that, in cooperation with the Indian Government, we have diverted some of our regular development assistance program in India to assist in cooperation with the Indian Government some of the affected populations in India.

MR. ERELI: Tammy.

QUESTION: Do you have any assessment of how many areas near Banda Aceh remain isolated, how much you’ve actually been able to get in there now with the helicopters and how much you think it’s going to increase, asses it’s going to increase, once the Bonhomme Richard and more helicopters and MPS ships are there? Are there any numbers?

MR. KUNDER: I wish I could quantify that. Would you — I wouldn’t want to quantify. We talked about it just this morning. I mean, you have a very dynamic process going on right now of U.S. military helicopters landing in some of these isolated areas, our teams trying to push out.

Now, we have worked previously — you know, again, there is a U.S. foreign assistance program in Indonesia, a very substantial one, and while there were some limitations on working in Aceh because of the conflict there, we did have, through our Office of Transition Initiatives, some activity, some peace-building activities in Aceh Province. So we have some established partners on the ground, NGOs, nongovernmental organizations. So we’re also working with those nongovernmental organizations. The UN agencies, which have their own substantial programs, like UNICEF, like the World Food Program, like the World Health Organization, also have assessment teams going out. We’re trying to coordinate this range of international assessment teams.

I can say that we’ve reached many of the isolated areas of Aceh. In the next couple days, we’ll reach many, many more. And I’m hoping that within a matter of days we’ll be able to tell you that we’ve reached every isolated area. But bridges were wiped out and this is a very large, and as you know, very isolated area.


QUESTION: A question for the Assistant Administrator. There were some reports over the weekend that perhaps some of the assessments coming out of India understated the kind of devastation in that country because of the tsunami. Could you talk about what kind of effects you have seen based on the assessments from your people on the ground in India about what kind of devastation has occurred in India?

Also, you mentioned the cash-to-work program in Sri Lanka. Are there any plans to have similar programs elsewhere in the areas of devastation?

And a question for the general. Are there — is there a cycle set up, a rotation for these planes to come in? You mentioned that you have C-130s coming in. Is there going to be some sort of daily rotation or a weekly rotation where they come in, fly out, fly in? Is that what we’re going to see in terms of, you know, resupplying the areas of devastation?

MR. KUNDER: Well, our assessment of the situation in the affected areas of India is as stated in the fact sheet that you have there. I’m not aware of the allegations that the — that they might have been underestimated. In fact, we have, based on the latest reports from our assessment teams and the Indian Government, we’ve actually revised our initial figures downward in terms of deaths in India, some of the — you know, some of the limited good news out of this crisis. But I’m not aware of any underestimation.

I think what you would normally expect in a crisis of this magnitude, where communications are disrupted, is that you’re going to get a lot of fragmentary anecdotal early reporting which could be almost anywhere across the board, and that’s exactly why the military sends assessment teams, we send assessment teams, international organizations send assessment teams, so we get a clearer picture. And it’s normal for those figures then to be revised accordingly once we get better data and better eyes, professional eyes, on the ground; second, we are looking at doing similar cash-for-work programs in other affected regions, but we have only announced it thus far in Sri Lanka.

And I’ll let the general talk about the C-130s.

BGEN ALLEN: Strategically, we have airlift that is coming from the United States and other places where they’re based in the world, and they are delivering the large quantities of supplies, they are delivering equipment and so on, into the region. Operatically within the region, the C-130s then are distributing those supplies to smaller airheads so that they can be further pushed out to the tactical needs.

So we have the strategic airlift delivering it into the major region. Within the region we have the C-130s and probably some of the heavy-lift helicopters moving it to some of the smaller airheads, and then from those particular points then the helicopters will take up individual loads and deliver them down to the points where there is need.

Now, all of this is being coordinated so that it is as efficient as we can make it and as effective as we can make it to put the right kind of supplies against the right need as quickly as we can possibly move it.

MR. ERELI: I think we have time for one more question. Andrea.

QUESTION: Could either one of you gentlemen speak to whether or not your various organizations are involved in trying to find Americans who are still listed as missing in the areas, whether or not you’ve had any success finding them, and if you have any idea what the figures are right now of Americans who are still unaccounted for?

BGEN ALLEN: I know the State Department is tracking that.

MR. KUNDER: We would defer to the State Department on that. The consular officers would normally have primary responsibility.

QUESTION: You’re not involved at all in trying to bring assistance to —

BGEN ALLEN: I can’t speak for the State Department, but I know that questions are being actively pursued with respect to the whereabouts of Americans, and as best possible to investigate those questions and respond to families or to loved ones who are asking.

MR. ERELI: Thank you very much.

United States Government Response to
the Tsunami Disaster in Indonesia

January 2, 2005

German tourist embraces her child outside a hotel destroyed by tsunamis in Sri Lanka’s Galle district.

Photo by Jimin Lai / AFP Photo

To date the USG has pledged nearly $15 million in direct humanitarian assistance to Indonesia in response to the disaster, in addition to military assistance and support. (Note assistance pledged by Secretary Powell of $350 million, of which Indonesia will be getting a substantial portion).

With USG support, emergency humanitarian services began Sunday immediately following the disaster:

  • With $2.1 million US support, Indonesian Red Cross began providing emergency services to victims, including shelter, water, food and medical services.
  • With $3.5 million US support, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) began transporting and delivering relief supplies (water, food, plastic sheeting, generators, fuel and medical supplies).

Transportation and logistical support, including U.S. military assets:

  • Four C-130 aircraft have begun airlift support to Jakarta, Medan and Banda Aceh for transport of relief supplies, including shelter, water, food, and medical services.
  • USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier now positioned off Aceh coast to provide relief support including 10 helicopters to begin sorties into Banda Aceh and west coast of Sumatra to transport relief supplies and evacuate refugees and injured.
  • 80 trucks distributing relief supplies in/around Banda Aceh.

Food, Water, Shelter, and Health Care:

  • 13,000 metric tons of food, with more forthcoming. 3,000 metric tons are already in Jakarta.
  • 10,000 metric tons of rice is on its way by boat from Singapore to Aceh and North Sumatra.
  • 40,000 liters of UHT milk packed in school packs for children to be airlifted from Jakarta beginning today.
  • 40 tons of fortified biscuits and noodles are in transit to Banda Aceh. Water purification for 50,000 families already in Banda Aceh being delivered by CARE to victims.
  • A USAID-chartered plane landed yesterday in Medan with large-scale water containers, jerry cans, and other relief supplies including plastic sheeting to shelter 5,000 families.
  • U.S. Navy medical staff is on ground in Meulaboh to begin to respond to immediate health care needs. U.S. Military Pacific Command is working on TNI request to deploy field hospital in Meulaboh.
  • USAID partners have already initiated the provision of hundreds of generators, refrigerators for medicines, communications equipment and basic emergency and shelter kits for families, temporary water and sanitation facilities, trauma counseling, clean up and access to other basic services (through USAID partners International Relief and Development, Nurani Dunia, Mercy Corps)
Outpouring of U.S Private Sector support:

Many U.S companies (e.g. Marriot, NIKE, Caterpillar, Citi group) are providing multi-million donations to relief efforts as well as in-kind contributions of food and equipment.

(Source: U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia)

More than 50 Russian Tourists are Missing in Thailand

MOSCOW, January 2 (RIA Novosti) – More than 50 Russian tourists who were vacationing on the Thai island of Phuket are still missing, reported press secretary of the Russian Union of Tour Operators Irina Tyurina in a radio broadcast on Echo Mosckvy.

"There is less and less hope that they might be stranded somewhere and cannot establish communication, because it has been a long time since they were reported missing. All people who were somehow stuck in remote areas have been found except this group," she emphasized.

At the same time, Irina Tyurina does not exclude the possibility that these people left the disaster zone right after the catastrophe and without notifying proper authorities.

"Many Russian tourist called their tour operators right after the disaster and during the following day. At present, there are fewer and fewer of these calls. We think that, unfortunately, we will have more official victims among Russian tourists," she added.

Bush Mourns Tsunami Victims, Highlights Relief Efforts

President Bush said he and his fellow Americans “join the rest of the world in feeling enormous sadness” over the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. In his weekly radio address, Bush highlighted U.S. efforts now under way to aid victims, including work with “an international coalition to help with immediate humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and long-term construction efforts.”

Bush praised his fellow citizens – individuals, companies and charitable groups — for “translating the blessings of our own country into generosity to others” by raising millions of dollars for relief efforts.

The President announced that he had signed a proclamation calling for U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff in the coming week in honor of the tsunami victims.

The Following is a Transcript of the President’s Radio Address Regarding the Tsunami

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The White House

Radio Address of the President to the Nation

January 1, 2005

Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia (Jan. 3, 2005) – Chief Hospital Corpsman Jim Jones, of Gilboq, N.Y., tends to a patient flown-in by a U.S. Navy helicopter to a temporary triage site in Aceh, Sumatra. Medical teams from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) set-up a triage site located on Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base, in Banda Aceh, Sumatra. The two teams worked together with members of the Australian Air Force to provide initial medical care to victims of the Tsunami-stricken coastal regions. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Elizabeth A. Edwards
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On this first day of a new year, we join the world in feeling enormous sadness over a great human tragedy. Last Sunday, an earthquake and violent tsunamis struck the nations that surround the Indian Ocean. The carnage is of a scale that defies comprehension, with over 100,000 deaths reported. I have signed a proclamation calling for our nation’s flag to be flown at half-staff this coming week. As the people of this devastated region struggle to recover, we offer our love and compassion, and our assurance that America will be there to help.

Earlier this week, I spoke with the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia. I offered them the condolences of our nation and I praised their steadfast leadership. The task they face is difficult. Their relief resources are stretched nearly to the limit.

Communications, roads and medical facilities have been badly damaged; disease has become a very real threat.

Americans are a compassionate people and we are already hard at work helping those nations meet these challenges. The United States has pledged $350 million in relief assistance, with $15 million already in the hands of relief organizations in the affected countries. To help coordinate this massive relief effort, disaster response officials are on the ground and have established a support center in Thailand that is manned and operational; more than 20 patrol and cargo aircraft have been made available to assess the disaster and deliver relief supplies — many of those aircraft are already on the scene. We have dispatched the aircraft carrier, Abraham Lincoln, the Maritime pre-positioning squadron from Guam, and an amphibious ship carrying a Marine Expeditionary Unit — they will soon be in position to support relief efforts, to include the generation of clean water.

Tomorrow, I will send a delegation to the area to meet with regional leaders and international organizations to assess what additional aid can be provided by the United States. The delegation will be led by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Governor Jeb Bush, who has extensive experience in the state of Florida with relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts following natural disasters. Secretary Powell has already spoken with many of his counterparts in the region, and with officials from the United Nations, and other governments that are helping with the response. Together, we are leading an international coalition to help with immediate humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and long-term construction efforts. India, Japan and Australia have already pledged to help us coordinate these relief efforts, and I’m confident many more nations will join this core group in short order.

Here at home, Americans are translating the blessings of our own country into generosity to others. From charitable organizations to private individuals to companies, our fellow citizens, on their own initiative, are raising millions of dollars for relief efforts. These Americans, donor and fundraiser alike, represent the best of our country and offer an example to the world. Any American who desires to donate to these efforts can easily do so online, by accessing the USA FreedomCorps web site at www.usafreedomcorps.gov.

In this season when we gather with loved ones and count our many blessings, we hold the victims of this terrible tragedy in our hearts and prayers. And let us be mindful that even in this modern age, our world still requires compassion, tolerance and generosity from each of us.

Laura and I send our condolences to all whose hearts are filled with grief this New Year’s Day; and to our fellow Americans, we wish you peace and happiness in the coming year.

Thank you for listening.


Navy ‘Angels’ Delivering Relief Supplies to Indonesia

By Jim Garamone

Jan. 1, 2005 — U.S. Navy helicopters "appeared like angels" as they delivered supplies to Aceh province, Indonesia, according to the provincial governor.

Navy Capt. Rodger Welch told reporters during a teleconference that provincial officials appreciate the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Battle Group now afloat off the island of Sumatra.

Carrier Air Wing 2 helicopters are delivering supplies to the most badly damaged area following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit on Christmas. Officials in the region said the death toll is approaching 150,000. Millions more across the Indian Ocean are homeless.

News reports said the death toll in Indonesia alone may exceed 100,000. Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Maldives, India and Somalia were hit by the tsunamis spawned by the earthquake.

Welch said U.S. military assessment teams report that Thailand is handling the unprecedented situation well. Sri Lanka is making progress with supplies backing up at the main airport in the capital of Colombo. India has a well-developed infrastructure and is dong well. Indonesia, however, was the hardest hit, and the infrastructure in Aceh province effectively was destroyed. "There is like one road in Aceh," Welch said.

American helicopters are delivering relief supplies to the tens of thousands of people who need them. The helicopters are also transporting those in need of medical care. The sailors are working with the Indonesian military, relief organizations and other governmental groups to get the supplies to those most in need, Welch said.

The sailors aboard the ships in the battle group are readying relief supplies for delivery. "They are baking and freezing bread, for example," Welch said. He said the carrier group also can provide medical support, water desalination capabilities, bedding and other capabilities the Indonesians need.

Other assets are moving into the region. The Air Force has sent 10 C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to lift supplies around the nations. Two to four Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets are available for heavy lift capabilities.

In addition to the Lincoln Group, the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group will move into the area as soon as Jan. 2, Welch said. The sailors and Marines bring a lot of capabilities to the region. Originally, the group was due to sail to Sri Lanka, but that may change, Welch said.

The Navy also is sending Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit 6 from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to Indonesia, Welch said. The unit – with a full laboratory – will help the Indonesian medical establishment monitor water quality and check for the presence of disease.

Joint Task Force 536 at Utapao, Thailand, now has about 350 personnel and is coordinating the U.S. military effort in the region. Welch said the speed of the build-up is encouraging. "Remember, this disaster struck just a week ago," he said.

Pre-positioned ships have left Japan, Guam and Diego Garcia to deliver water, food, medical supplies, trucks and heavy equipment. Those ships should arrive in a week, Welch said.

The Indonesians in Aceh are grateful for the U.S. help, Welch said. Aceh province has a long, festering Muslim revolt against the government in Djakarta, and news reports in the past said al Qaeda terrorists had found a welcome there. Welch said U.S. forces will take whatever precautions they need to operate in the area. But, in the aftermath of the disaster, U.S. personnel are not seeing any hostility, he added.

Welch said this is the largest U.S. military effort of this type he can remember. The scope of the disaster — it is 1,500 miles from the base at Utapao to Sri Lanka, for instance — and the devastation requires a worldwide response. The U.S. military has the unique lift capabilities to deliver relief supplies quickly. U.S. personnel also have experience working with allies. The effort in the region now has forces from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, India, South Korea and Canada, among others.

U.S. Pledges $350M to Relief as Indonesia Missions Begin

By Jim Garamone

Dec. 31, 2004 — As teams assessing the impact of last week’s Indian Ocean tsunami report their findings, President Bush has increased U.S. aid to the region to $350 million – 10 times the initial pledge made before the disaster’s scope unfolded.

Estimates are that more than 125,000 people were killed when a massive earthquake on the ocean floor triggered deadly tidal waves.

U.S. ships have arrived and are flying helicopter relief missions in Aceh province, Indonesia, said U.S. Pacific Command officials.

The U.S. teams’ initial findings indicate the need for financial and other assistance will steadily increase in the days and weeks ahead. "I am today committing $350 million to fund the U.S. portion of the relief effort," Bush said in a statement put out by the White House. "Our contributions will continue to be revised as the full effects of this terrible tragedy become clearer." A high-level team led by Secretary of State Colin Powell and including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose state was battered by hurricanes this fall, will head to the region Jan. 2.

The United States is leading a core group that also includes India, Australia and Japan in coordinating the international relief efforts. Canada also has volunteered to help this core group.

The scope of the damage is greatest in Aceh, officials said. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Christmas morning, followed minutes later by a tsunami that inundated parts of the island. Later, the tsunami struck Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, Malaysia and Somalia. Three military assessment teams are in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia. The teams are working closely with the host nations to assess the situation and rush supplies to the most critical areas.

Navy Capt. Rodger Welch, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Interagency Coordination Group in Hawaii, said Indonesia "is the most impacted area" and the country will "require the most assets."

The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Battle Group is operating off the island of Sumatra, and helicopters assigned to the group are ferrying supplies into the region and flying casualties out of the area. Assessment teams in Aceh will decide what other assistance the sailors and Marines aboard the ships can provide.

The USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group also is rushing to the area and is expected to enter the Straits of Malacca in a few days. The group is scheduled to move to Sri Lanka, but Welch said that may change as more information becomes available. "Some of the ships may go to Sri Lanka, while others go to different areas," he said during a teleconference from Hawaii.

Operations in the region are complicated. In Aceh, only daylight operations are possible, and pilots must fly using visual flight rules. Other areas are better equipped, and the assessment teams are trying to ascertain the status of airfields not only in Indonesia, but also around the Indian Ocean rim.

More military airlifters will go to the region, Welch said. Two to four C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets will help in the effort, as will six more C-130 Hercules transports. Twelve more helicopters – six CH-53s and six CH-46s – are moving to the area. The C-130s and helicopters already on the scene are ferrying relief supplies to the hardest-hit areas, Welch said. He noted that the helicopters are incredibly important, because in many cases supplies have arrived at airports, but could not be distributed out of the area. The helicopters will solve that problem, he said.

Pre-positioned ships from Diego Garcia and Guam will arrive shortly with relief supplies including water and water-making capacity. The ships also carry trucks and heavy construction equipment that will enable host nations to reopen roads.

About 350 U.S. personnel are manning Joint Task Force 536 in Utapao, Thailand. The base is centrally located for the relief effort. P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and C-130s already are operating out of the base.

Ships, Aircraft, Personnel Converge on Disaster Zone

By Jim Garamone

Dec. 30, 2004 – The U.S. Joint Task Force set up to provide assistance to the nations affected by last weekend’s Indian Ocean tsunami is up and running, and Marine assessment teams have started to report their findings.

More than 115,000 people are estimated to have died in the tsunamis that struck on Christmas. U.S. forces are in the region to help the affected nations in whatever needs to be done.

The United States will deliver “as much help as soon as we can, as long as we’re needed,” said Navy Capt. Roger Welch, chief of U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Interagency Coordination Group in Hawaii.

U.S. ships and personnel are converging on the affected areas. Nine P-3 Orions are helping with aerial reconnaissance, 10 C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft are in the area and already have started delivering supplies, and three teams – in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka – are helping local authorities with disaster assessments.

Eight pre-positioning systems are coming from Guam and Diego Garcia to deliver supplies to the hardest-hit areas. These ships contain 450,000 gallons of water and the capability of making 90,000 gallons of fresh water each day.

The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Battle Group is transiting through the Straits of Malacca now and will take up a position off the coast of Sumatra. The group will be well placed to provide support to the Indonesian province of Aceh. The Lincoln group will be there Dec. 31, said Navy officials.

The USS Bonhomme Richard Marine Strike Group left Guam and is sailing for a position off Sri Lanka. That group should arrive in a week, officials said.

The scope of the disaster is almost beyond comprehension, officials said. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia destroyed buildings in nearby Aceh and also loosed tsunamis that struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Malaysia, the Maldives and Somalia. The coastal areas of these nations have been wiped out, and water and aid are necessary to prevent more deaths.

Welch said getting an accurate assessment is key. “Some of these areas are remote,” Welch said during a teleconference call. “We have to go out and ‘surveille’ – that’s what the P-3s are doing, as well as some of the helicopters (off the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group).”

The U.S. effort is in support of the local authorities. These are sovereign nations, Pentagon officials said. “The United States is not there to take over the rescue or relief effort,” an official said. “We are there to provide whatever help they decide they need.”

Joint Task Force 536, formed specifically for the relief effort, is running at Utapao, Thailand.

Welch said fresh water seems to be the first need in the affected regions. “People are drinking contaminated water,” he said. The countries also need food, medical supplies, heavy equipment, trucks and building supplies. Much of this will be available from the pre-positioned ships, officials said

Tsunami Toll Hits 120,000; 10 Israelis Still Missing

(IFM) The number of fatalities from the tsunami that hit the Southeast Asia region kept on rising to an estimated 120,000, Ha’Aretz reported. The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced Thursday, December 30, 2004 that Thai authorities had identified the body of a missing Israeli tourist. The announcement came as 10 Israelis are still missing in the area, five of whom have most likely been killed in the disaster. Of the 10, five are missing in Thailand, four in Sri Lanka, and one in India’s Andaman Islands. Many parts of the northern Sumatra island have yet to be reached by rescue crews and the toll is expected to rise.

Five Israelis who had been missing after Sunday’s tsunami have been found. Seven other Israelis were evacuated Wednesday by military helicopter from the tsunami-stricken area in southern Sri Lanka. One of the group received medical treatment aboard the helicopter after sustaining injuries in the disaster.

The number of Israelis who have yet to make contact with their families or Israeli officials fell early Thursday to 17, with embassy officials estimating that the number will continue to fall throughout.

In Thailand, two Israeli women who were moderately to seriously hurt in the tsunami were admitted Wednesday to a Bangkok hospital. Both are suffering from multiple contusions and fractures, and one of them underwent surgery Wednesday night. Hospital sources said they expected doctors to allow them to fly back to Israel within a few days.

Thailand Says 2 Israelis Might Be Among
74,000 Killed by Tsunami

(IFM) As the death toll in the tsunami disaster that hit Southeast Asia on Sunday climbed toward 74,000, Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said Wednesday, December 29, 2004 that two Israelis were among 473 foreigners killed there, HA’ARETZ reported. The identity of the victims has not been communicated as yet.

Fifty-six Israelis are still missing from the Thai tourist resorts of Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, Israeli consul in Thailand Ya’akov Dvir said today. The Foreign Ministry focused its efforts Tuesday on locating Israelis in Thailand, after it became clear that there were no Israeli casualties in any other location, including the Andaman Islands.

There were 33 Israelis in Thai hospitals Tuesday, four of whom are in critical condition. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that as soon as their medical condition allowed it, the injured Israelis would be flown to Bangkok, from where they would be airlifted back to Israel.

Of the 2,000 Israelis who were known to be in areas hit by the tidal wave in Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands, some 1,400 had been contacted by the Foreign Ministry by Tuesday evening. Hundreds more contacted their families directly.

Israeli psychologists, forensics experts and ZAKA rescue and recovery officials were en route to Southeast Asia to help relatives locate and identify their loved ones. The Israeli rescue officials are bound for the Thai capital of Bangkok. Another plane is set to fly to Sri Lanka, carrying tents, generators, blankets, medical equipment and other items meant to help those whose belongings have been destroyed in the disaster.

Israel Sends Aid to Thailand, Sri Lanka

Yehuda Meshi Zahav, head of Israel’s Zaka rescue unit, views corpses of tsunami victims that were brought from Phi Phi island to a temple in the coastal city of Krabi on December 30, 2004. The death toll in the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster soared above 120,000 on Thursday as millions scrambled for food and fresh water and thousands more fled in panic to high ground on rumors of new waves.

Photo by Stringer / Thailand / Reuters Photo

(IFM) As the world is preparing what United Nation’s officials titled "the most expensive aid relief mission" for 10 Southeast Asia countries, Israel is sending several delegations to Sri Lanka and Thailand, the Jerusalem Post reported. India, unlike Thailand and Sri Lanka, has not requested any Israeli assistance.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom said an immediate decision to send $100,000 worth of food and medical supplies had been made. Israel will ship10 tons of relief aid to Sri Lanka. An Israeli medical mission to Thailand was dispatched by the Health Ministry on Monday. Headed by associate director-general Boaz Lev, it includes five physicians and four nurses from Ichilov, Ha’emek, Beilinson and Kaplan hospitals. Israel dispatched a 15-person medical team, including nine army doctors, to Phuket, Thailand, Monday night to assist rescue operations.

Hundreds of Israelis Missing in Southeast Asia
Following Earthquake Disaster

(IFM) With a the death toll from Sunday’s earthquake in Southeast Asia reaching an estimated 23,000, Foreign Ministry officials said Monday, December 27, 2004 that while 450 Israelis in the region had so far been contacted, hundreds were still missing, reports the Jerusalem Post. Between 7 and 14 Israelis are known to have been injured in the aftermath of the natural disaster. The missing list includes 160 Israelis on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal; 270 in southern Thailand; 60 in Sri Lanka and around 50 people in southern India.

Foreign Ministry officials and doctors flew to Southeast Asia today to search for missing Israeli tourists and provide assistance to countries struck by the massive earthquake and tidal waves. Israeli army doctors are to offer medical assistance in Thailand and Sri Lanka, and army teams will look for missing Israelis in southern India. Foreign Ministry Director-General Ron Prosor said that Israel would dispatch $100,000 worth of medicine and food to Thailand and India. In addition, a Foreign Ministry delegation including three top doctors from the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and an officer from the Home Front Command departed for the area to provide emergency assistance.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Shalom said Israel would assist its citizens in every way possible and also offered Israel’s assistance to the nations struck by the natural disaster.

Statement on Bay of Bengal Earthquake and Tidal Waves

December 26, 2004

On behalf of the American people, the President expresses his sincere condolences for the terrible loss of life and suffering caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in the region of the Bay of Bengal.

The United States stands ready to offer all appropriate assistance to those nations most affected including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as the other countries impacted. Already relief is flowing to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. We will work with the affected governments, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and other concerned states and organizations to support the relief and response to this terrible tragedy.

Again, we extend our sincere condolences to all the people of the region at this time of suffering.

International Community to Aid Nations
Hit by Quake, Tsunami

By Steve Herman

(VOA) Governments around the world, as well as non-profit organizations, are pledging support for victims of Sunday’s massive earthquake and resulting tsunamis that have affected more than a million people across the Bay of Bengal and in Indian Ocean coastal communities. Some relief and personnel are already on their way.

Japan was one of the first countries to respond to appeals for international aid.

The government Monday morning dispatched a disaster relief team of 21 doctors and nurses to Sri Lanka. Leading the team is Hiroyuki Yokota, a professor at the Nippon Medical School’s emergency care department.

Dr. Yokota says the team wants to do all it can to treat the injured and thus it is important to get there as quickly as possible.

The Japan Red Cross Society says it will provide about $1 million to areas hit by the quake and tsunamis. It has an emergency response unit standing by to help establish temporary hospitals and to provide medical aid.

In Geneva, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for more than $6 million for "immediate support" targeted at some 500,000 survivors with immediate needs.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India – itself dealing with tsunami casualties – says he has written to the leaders of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives, offering official assistance.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corporation Monday Canberra is providing more than $7 million in emergency funds. "The government is prepared to make an initial contribution to assist with relief effort. We might have to provide more than that as time goes on," he said. "Also we have some capacity to deliver fresh water, bottled water, tarpaulins and those kinds of things to assist people."

The European Commission says it is in close contact with its staff in the region and with organizations, such as the Red Cross, to assess where aid will be most needed. The 25-nation bloc is making an immediate pledge of more than $3 million in cash aid.

Tens of thousands of Europeans, Australians and Japanese were reported to be on vacation on the beaches of Thailand, Sri Lanka and other countries when the massive waves hit Sunday.

A White House spokesman says the United States will provide appropriate aid and says some relief is already on its way to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. U.S. officials say they will provide further assistance in cooperation with other countries and international organizations, including the United Nations.

The international organization, Doctors Without Borders, is sending 32 tons of medical and sanitation supplies by plane to Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, the area closest to the quake’s epicenter.

UN Says Cost of Tsunami Disaster Without Precedent

By Peter Heinlein

(VOA) The U.N. emergency relief agency is struggling to respond to a natural disaster that has brought death and destruction to at least eight countries. Senior officials estimate this could be the costliest disaster in history.

As he briefed reporters Monday, an obviously worried U.N. Undersecretary General Jan Egeland said it is far too early to determine the scope of the devastation.

"The figures we have now are so wrong that in many ways it may be wrong to really present them," Mr. Egeland says.

Mr. Egeland, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said death and damage tolls are rising by the hour. He expressed concern that in some of the hardest hit areas, particularly in Indonesia, he has still not even heard from U.N. staff.

"There are many communities in Indonesia, which are closest to the epicenter, and therefore the tsunami would be at its biggest, where we haven’t even a clue of how many have been affected," Mr. Egeland says. "These are some of the smaller communities in Sumatra. Certainly Bandar Aceh is a very grave concern, and it is not good that I cannot communicate with our people there, of which we have many local staff, not even with satellite phone, which could be an indication that something very bad has happened."

Mr. Egeland said, although the killer wave that hit the south Asian coastline was not the biggest in recorded history, it may have been the most destructive, because several hard-hit countries are among the world’s most heavily populated.

He said the eight worst-hit countries, in order of magnitude, were Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Maldives, Malaysia, Burma and Bangladesh.

A massive appeal for aid is to be launched in the next few days. Mr. Egeland expressed concern, however, that several rich donor countries are becoming less generous, even as needs continue to grow.

"We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries. It is beyond me why we are so stingy," Mr. Egeland says. "Actually foreign assistance for many countries now is 0.1 or 0.2 percent of gross national income, that is stingy."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Monday said the United States would give an initial 15 million dollars in relief assistance. In addition, several disaster assessment teams are being sent to determine what else can be done to help victims.

U.N. disaster relief coordinator Jan Egeland said among the happiest developments following the quake and tidal wave has been the response capacity of local relief agencies. He said in places such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and Thailand, local and national authorities have displayed a "remarkable resilience". He added that, while the international response has been overvalued, the local response has been undervalued.

Strike Group Commander: Ships Ready to Assist

By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Joaquin Juatai, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

Indian Ocean (Jan. 2, 2005) – Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Savoy and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Davy Nugent prepares bread in the bakery aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) for the victims of the Tsunami-stricken areas of Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand.

Photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Timothy C. Roache Jr. / U.S. Navy Photo

ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At sea (NNS) — In response to requests for assistance by governments in the region, U.S. 7th Fleet directed USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group to proceed from a recent port visit in Hong Kong to assist in humanitarian and disaster relief missions in the wake of recent multiple and devastating Indian Ocean tsunamis.

According to Rear Adm. Doug Crowder, commander, Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ALCSG), the call for ALCSG to respond came as no surprise, as they are a major force in the region and able to respond.

“This was a horrible event. A lot of human suffering is involved,” said Crowder. “We’ve got the capability to go in to an area and provide some help.”

Although exact plans as to where the strike group will go and what kind of assistance they will provide are still forthcoming, according to Crowder, ALCSG is the right force to have in the region at the right time.

“We have the ability to go anywhere in this area of responsibility on virtually no notice,” he said. “This humanitarian aid mission is now our mission, and we have the capabilities to do it.”

Crowder said that assets of ALCSG include the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, commanded by Capt. Lawrence Burt. According to Burt, CVW-2 has a lot to offer to humanitarian efforts.

“Our air wing is unique in that we have two helicopter squadrons deployed with us vice just one,” Burt said. He added that, in addition to the 15 helicopters of embarked Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 2 and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light Squadron (HSL) 47, several of the ships in the strike group also employ the helicopter squadrons giving ALCSG mobility access from more than one platform.

CVW-2 has two C-2 Greyhounds, also known as Carrier Onboard Delivery planes or CODs, which are capable of carrying several thousand pounds of cargo from the beach to the carrier for further distribution. The E-2C Hawkeye aircraft of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116 can provide search and rescue support, as can the F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets of the air wing, according to Burt.

“We have a lot of capabilities,” said Crowder. He added the strike group, one of the first to surge deploy under the Navy’s Fleet Response Plan (FRP), wouldn’t be available to help if it hadn’t been for the new methods of training and deployment used under FRP.

The inherent flexibility of naval forces allows us to drop what we’re doing and respond to a higher priority mission, Crowder explained.

“Instead of coming out of Hong Kong the other day and turning north, we came out and turned south, and we’re speeding now toward this area of suffering (to lend assistance),” he added. “It’s that kind of flexibility that we bring to the force that allows us to do these sorts of things.”

According to Crowder, these tragic events also bring out the best in ALCSG Sailors.

“We bring with us 6,500 men and women of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, and I know almost everyone is eager to roll their sleeves up if that’s what it comes to and help their fellow man,” he said

Even though they’re heading south toward the affected region, the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has yet to receive precise orders as to what assistance they will lend. Until the order is given, the men and women of the ships and air wing are doing all they can to be prepared to lend assistance in whatever manner possible.”

FBI Offers Tips for Searching the Whereabouts of Tsunami Victims

At the FBI Website the Following Information is Offered for Those Searching for Tsunami Victims

A unidentified tourist lies next to a child at a shelter in Colombo December 27, 2004 after a tsunami hit island’s coastal area. Hundreds of wounded and displaced foreigners waited for flights home on Monday after Sri Lanka’s coastal belts were hit by a devastating tsunami that killed at least 4, 891 people.

Photo by Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi / Reuters Photo

(FBI) Please check the following websites that have been specially created to help you investigate missing, deceased, injured, and verified safe Americans involved in the Southeast Asian Tsunami:


This site allows you to post a message and a photo of a potential victim. The local hospitals are said to have access to it. You can review thousands of names and photos here.

Sites that post lists of injured and dead:

www.narenthorn.or.th, www.disaster.go.th, and www.phuketcity.com

Official US Embassy/Consular Website at Bangkok is http://bangkok.usembassy.gov

If you fail all attempts to locate a person, after checking with logical friends and relatives, and their points of contact, consider consolidating their information, and a digitized photo, into one report for the U.S. Consulate in Bangkok. See this web for details about the Consular efforts Here

We (the FBI) earnestly hope these tips might help concerned persons resolve some of their heartfelt questions.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Honors the Memory of the Victims of the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunamis

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger honored victims of the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunamis by ordering Capitol flags and flags at all state buildings flown at half-staff.

"Maria and I extend our heartfelt prayers and sympathy to all those suffering as a result of the devastating South Asia earthquake and tsunamis. Our thanks and best wishes also go out to all Californians and people throughout the globe who have generously answered the call to assist in relief efforts. Today I ask Californians to join me in honoring the memory of all the victims of this terrible tragedy and helping in any way they can to relieve the tremendous pain and suffering for those left behind," said Governor Schwarzenegger.

In conjunction with a proclamation issued by President George W. Bush affecting the federal government, the flag at the State Capitol and the flags at all state buildings will be flown at half staff from Monday, January 3, 2005 through Friday, January 7, 2005.

For links and additional information regarding where to find more information about the disaster, where to find American citizens in the region and participating in relief efforts visit:

http://www.governor.ca.gov/state/govsite/ gov_htmldisplay.jsp?sCatTitle=%20&sFilePath=/

To view the letter to Californians from Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver regarding this disaster visit: