U.S. Adds $20 Million to Earthquake Relief
The U.S. Agency for International Development is adding $20 million to an initial $15 million contribution for Asian earthquake relief as Secretary of State Colin Powell bristled at a United Nations official’s suggestion the United States has been “stingy.” Confirming the new assistance, Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli also disclosed Tuesday that a large number of missing Americans had been found and were safe. But Ereli said hundreds of others remained unaccounted for and that seven had perished in Sri Lanka and five in Thailand. Describing the $20 million as a “line of credit,” Ereli said the money will be made available to countries devastated by the most powerful earthquake in 40 years. This new total of $35 million is bound to be increased, he said. “We know the needs will grow,” Ereli said.
At the Pentagon, meanwhile, the Navy said the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been in port at Hong Kong, had been ordered to sail for the stricken area to provide assistance. A five-ship fleet headed by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard will skip a port call in Guam to sail for the region. Supplies of plastic sheltering, food and water bags are on their way to Indonesia from Dubai in the Persian Gulf.
Powell, irritated by the U.N. official’s criticism, toured morning television talk shows to say the Bush administration will follow up its contributions with additional large sums. “The United States has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world,” Powell said when asked about the comments Monday by Jan Egeland, the U.N. humanitarian aid chief.
Given the enormity of the tragedy, my guess is this aid package will be increased substantially when all is said and done. And that, again, is on top of what will surely be several million dollars in private contributions.