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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 14, 1998


Administration Response to Hurricane Mitch

At the direction of the President, the Administration is engaged in a robust relief effort in Central America in response to the disaster caused by Hurricane Mitch.

The President announced today that he is directing the drawdown of an additional $45 million in defense articles and services. These funds will allow the Department of Defense (DOD) to further expand relief and reconstruction efforts in Central America. DOD and the U.S. Agency for International Development are actively involved in rescue operations, as well as providing food, water and medical care. They are also beginning to help rebuild roads, bridges, houses, schools and medical facilities.

Mrs. Gore led a Presidential Mission to the region on November 9-10. The First Lady will visit Central America November 16-19.

The assistance announced by the President today raises U.S. contributions to Hurricane Mitch to $125 million dollars. There will be substantial assistance in the days and weeks ahead.

Following is a summary of the assistance currently being provided by the U. S. Government:

Department of Defense

Personnel: Over 1300 soldiers are in the region as part of a special Joint Task Force formed to coordinate the military's ongoing response. Initial military activities were funded under a Presidential drawdown of $30 million.

Transport and Delivery: Dozens of U.S. military helicopters and 13 fixed wing aircraft operate daily and have delivered over 1.3 million pounds of relief supplies to date. Ten Chinook heavy lift helicopters arrived in the region on November 12, bringing the total to 39.

Engineering and repair: SEABEE and other units are clearing and repairing key roads. This weekend, the military will deploy a bridge company to the region to supplement efforts.

U.S. Agency for International Development

Personnel: A 31-member Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) from USAID is present in the Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador, coordinating U.S. relief activities with national and private voluntary efforts.

Critical Relief Needs: USAID is providing $30 million to purchase and distribute plastic sheeting, blankets and other relief supplies, procure food locally, provide health, water and sanitation services (including restoration of Tegucigalpa's water system), and purchase supplies for road repair and reconstruction. Ten flights have delivered relief supplies from stockpiles in the U.S. to Central America.

Food Aid: USAID is providing $20 million in Title II emergency food aid, including rice, beans, oil and corn soya blend for children. USAID is airlifting food to the region to meet initial needs, and has delivered almost 850 metric tons (1.87 million pounds) on 18 flights to Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. An estimated 6,000 metric tons is expected to arrive in the region by ship before the end of the month.

Housing: USAID and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will lead a mission, in partnership with the private sector, to address housing reconstruction and infrastructure repair needs.

Department of Agriculture:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing 10,000 metric tons of wheat to both Honduras and Nicaragua.

Department of Treasury:

The President has asked Secretary Rubin to find the best way to provide debt relief and emergency financial aid from the U.S and the international community. The Department of Treasury is working with multilateral financial institutions to ensure that the affected countries have sufficient money for reconstruction.

Department of Justice:

The President has asked the Immigration and Naturalization Service to extend a stay of deportation for nationals from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala through the end of the year. In addition, the Administration is examining on an urgent basis recommendations for further relief.