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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 5, 1998


U.S. Government Response to Hurricane Mitch

Hurricane Mitch has taken a catastrophic toll on the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, causing a massive humanitarian crisis and challenging U.S. strategic interests in the hemisphere. President Clinton has ordered a comprehensive relief effort by the United States Government to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the victims of this natural disaster.

U.S. Agency for International Development:

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to the region to coordinate U.S. relief efforts with national disaster response offices. Eighteen DART team members are currently managing relief operations in the five Central American countries which have suffered the most damage from the storm.

To date, USAID has provided $3.7 million to support DoD logistical operations and meet the most immediate needs of the victims. This relief consists of deliveries of plastic sheeting, blankets and water containers, emergency health care, and local purchases of food and other emergency supplies.

USAID today announced that its Office of Food for Peace is providing $20 million in emergency food assistance to the Central American countries affected by Hurricane Mitch. An initial $5 million in food aid will be airlifted to Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, with the first flight scheduled for November 6. Rice, beans, oil and corn soya blend for children form the initial components of the USAID food aid response. USAID also announced today that it will provide an additional $16.3 million through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for water, sanitation, and other relief assistance.

Department of Defense:

The Department of Defense has been actively engaged in search and rescue operations, and the delivery of relief supplies. U.S. Southern Command began search and rescue and aid distribution missions in the region on October 31. Forty-eight rotary and 25 fixed-wing missions have flown to date, with an additional 21 rotary and 9 fixed-wing missions planned in the near future. Over 710 rolls of sheeting, 15,000 water jugs and 6,000 blankets have been delivered through these missions. Southern Command has rescued approximately 75 people and delivered 450,000 pounds of relief supplies. Southern Command is establishing a special Joint Task Force in the region to coordinate the military's ongoing response.

In addition to these efforts, the President is directing that, up to $30 million in defense articles and services be provided for disaster relief in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. The assistance will be available for the provision and transport of emergency supplies, personnel, search and rescue personnel; and engineering support to address the devastation of infrastructure; and other items.

Department of Agriculture:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced today that it has authorized the delivery of 10,000 metric tons of wheat to both Honduras and Nicaragua. This assistance is part of the 2.5 million metric ton food initiative announced by President Clinton in July through the Presidential Food Initiative. [More from USDA to be added here.