US aid to B'desh; disaster assessment teams dispatched

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Dhaka, Nov 19 (UNI) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today expressed sympathies to the Bangladeshi people in the wake of the disastrous cyclone SIDR and said the United States would extend all possible help to the country and immediately call into action a multitude of US government disaster relief agencies and departments.

''We extend our deepest sympathies to the people of Bangladesh following this major natural disaster, and we stand ready to assist further,'' she said in a statement in Washington.

Ms Rice said the USAID provided 100,000 dollars immediately after the cyclone and had sent a five-member disaster assessment team to the South Asian country to assist with the relief and recovery efforts.

''This team is working alongside local authorities to conduct field assessments that will identify additional needs and areas where we might be of assistance,'' she added.

USAID is now sending an additional two million dollars in emergency funds for water and sanitation programs and to provide shelter materials to those in need. A portion of this funding will also be provided to humanitarian organisations currently working in the affected areas.

At the request of the US Embassy in Bangladesh, US Pacific Command has sent a 23-man Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team of US Marines to the southern coast of Bangladesh to determine how the US military can best provide assistance in the area.

A military medical team already in the country is prepared to provide medical assistance to the injured.

In addition, US Navy ships, USS Essex and USS Kearsarge, have been ordered to move in the direction of the country so that US military forces can be better positioned in the event that the Bangladesh government requests assistance.

These ships, each carrying 20 or more helicopters and expected to arrive in five to seven days, can be used for medical evacuations and surveying affected areas. The Department of Defense will continue to assess assets, which may be deployed in Bangladesh.

UNI

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