U.S. officials held two conference calls yesterday to discuss aid to the southern Asian countries inundated by the Indian Ocean tsunamis as European countries began flying rescuers into the region and international organizations planned billions of dollars in relief. A White House statement said U.S. aid was flowing to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
European governments and international organizations launched humanitarian teams despite the holiday weekend, and the British-based poverty relief group Oxfam warned that many more would die without a huge charitable response.
_____Tsunamis Hit South Asia_____
Photo Gallery: Scenes after tsunamis hit coastal towns, fishing villages and tourist resorts across the region.
Video: The Post's Peter Goodman reports on vacationers' reactions from Phuket, Thailand
Audio: The Post's Michael Dobbs describes the massive tsunami in Sri Lanka.
AP Report: Video of Devastation in South Asia
NOAA Animation: Preliminary model estimates of the Indonesia tsunami.
Map: Casualties in South Asia
Graphic: Making of a Tsunami
10 Deadliest Earthquakes
_____More From The Post_____
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Walls of Water Converge on Bus Depot, Killing Hundreds (The Washington Post, Dec 28, 2004)
'All the Sea Was Like a Desert' (The Washington Post, Dec 28, 2004)
Billions in Aid Needed for Devastated Areas, U.N. Official Says (The Washington Post, Dec 28, 2004)
'We Didn't Understand, We Were Just Paralyzed' (The Washington Post, Dec 28, 2004)
'The Water Has Eaten My Child' (The Washington Post, Dec 28, 2004)
'Very, Very Bad of Course. . . . Cholera Is Going to Be a Problem' (The Washington Post, Dec 28, 2004)
"The floodwaters will have contaminated drinking water, and food will be scarce," Jasmine M. Whitbread, the group's international director, said in a statement.
The World Bank said billions of dollars in relief eventually might be needed. Pope John Paul II, during his Sunday noon appearance in Vatican City, appealed to the international community to help.
A White House official said the U.S. Agency for International Development had released funds in Sri Lanka and the Maldives at the request of embassies.
Last night, more than 24 hours after the quake struck, Bush administration officials were unable to say what else the United States had done to help. Officials held an evening conference call among themselves, but a participant said no progress was reported.
Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden were sending teams of technical experts and rescue workers, the Associated Press reported. The European Union pledged $4 million.
The international Red Cross in Geneva announced a six-month campaign for donations of cash, goods or services totaling $6.7 million. The U.S. fund for UNICEF estimated that one-third of the reported dead are children.
The Web site of the Agency for International Development, which provides humanitarian assistance abroad, advised that the "most efficient and effective way to help those affected by a disaster overseas is to make a monetary donation to a humanitarian organization that is implementing relief programs in the affected region."
President Bush flew yesterday to his ranch in Texas for a week-long vacation. A written statement from the White House press office said that on behalf of the American people, he "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," the statement said.
Noel Clay, a State Department press officer, said the government was "looking at ways we can help in the process."
The State Department said at least three Americans were among the dead -- two in Sri Lanka and one in Thailand -- and others were injured.