Powell At Thai Embassy After Signing Condolences
Remarks Outside Thai Embassy After Signing Condolence Book
Secretary Colin L. Powell
December 30, 2004
10:22 a.m. EST
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you tell us what message you brought to the Thai people today?
SECRETARY POWELL: I wanted to extend to the Thai people, on behalf of President and Mrs. Bush and the American people, our sympathy and our condolences to the families of those who are lost and also to show solidarity with those who are in need and solidarity with our Thai friends and allies.
The United States is responding as rapidly as we can -- an initial infusion of money. Much more money will follow as the need is determined and as we see how best to use these resources. And we have dispatched naval forces, as well as aircraft are on the way now with relief supplies. More disaster response assessment teams are being sent in. Rescue teams are going in from Los Angeles and from Fairfax County to assist in relief efforts.
We know the need is great and the United States is a generous nation and we will do everything that has to be done to respond to that need. We're working with the United Nations. We're working with other international agencies, with our friends in the European Union and elsewhere, to bring all of the assets of the international community to bear on this problem.
The principal challenge is in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, but also Thailand as well, and that's where we'll be focusing our efforts. We are in close touch, of course, with the Indians and all of the other nations that were affected, but the most severe need is in Sri Lanka and Indonesia; and of course, Thailand has some challenges with respect to all of the foreign tourists who may have been lost.
QUESTION: This is clearly an unprecedented humanitarian disaster. But do you have a sense whether or not it's in danger of becoming an economic one, especially for Sri Lanka and the nations that have been hit hardest, and what can the U.S. do there?
SECRETARY POWELL: This is a very important point because not only do we have to deal with the immediate humanitarian disaster, but the rebuilding effort and doing something about the economic impact of the loss of the tourist industry in some of these places. This will take time.
And so as you prepare for one of this relief operations, it has a certain cycle: an initial infusion of money, initial infusion of humanitarian assistance; and then longer term programs of investment and reconstruction help, loans, and working with the governments concerned to help them rebuild their industries. And the United States is in for the immediate humanitarian relief part of this and also for long-term reconstruction so that the economies can get back up on solid footing and that the people who have lost homes will have assistance in building homes and rebuilding their businesses.
And so this is going to be a massive effort. It's going to take a great deal of money. And I'm pleased with the response that we're seeing from the international community, and the United States will continue to add to the commitment we have already made as the need is known and after we've had a chance to, of course, consult with the Congress.
QUESTION: Do you see this as an opportunity or a time to reach out to the Muslim world?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, yes, this is a tragedy for the entire world and we should respond regardless of what the religious base of the tragedy is or who these people are. They are our fellow human beings who are in need. And I hope that people will see that the United States is willing to reach out to the Muslim world in this time of need, as we have done in other times of need.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have any updates on numbers of Americans that have been affected, and any special efforts that are being made for people who have lost passports, who have lost -- other situations on coming back to --
SECRETARY POWELL: All of our embassies and consular officers have been instructed to facilitate the no-fee provision of passports to allow our American citizens to come home. The numbers of American citizens lost is still relatively low, in the 12, 13, 14, in that neighborhood, but there are still a number of individuals who we don't have any word about. They are unaccounted. It does not mean they have been lost. We just haven't been able to reach out and connect with them.
Many more European tourists seem to have been lost and we are concerned about that, as well, and we're in touch with our European colleagues to see if there is anything we can do to help.
Released on December 30, 2004