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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 27, 1999


On behalf of all the people of the United States, I want to express our deepest sympathies to the people of Colombia who have lost loved ones or suffered injuries in Monday's devastating earthquake. It appears that more than 1000 people were killed and more than 3000 were injured. Entire neighborhoods lie in ruins, leaving many homeless.

I have spoken by telephone to President Pastrana and assured him that the United States will do its part to support relief and recovery. Already, a 62-member U.S. search and rescue team has arrived in Colombia, at the request of the Colombian Government, to help find and assist survivors. Today, we are making available through USAID $2 million for immediate disaster relief, including airlifts of blankets and shelter materials and other emergency needs identified by our two governments. We will deploy a new team of technical advisers to bolster Colombia's rescue efforts. And, with the strong support of the United States, the Inter-American Development Bank has already pledged $10 million for rebuilding.

We will stay in close contact with the Colombian Government to determine how else we can help. As with the response to Hurricane Mitch in Central America, I know the people of the United States will want to assist in the wake of this tragedy. I say to Colombians what I said to Central Americans: Ayudaremos a nuestros hermanos -- we will help our brothers and sisters. It is the right thing to do, and it supports our interest in a stable, democratic and prosperous hemisphere.

As I said in October when President Pastrana visited the White House, his presidency represents a new beginning for Colombia -- a new opportunity that Monday's tragedy cannot and must not undermine. We will continue to work closely with him as he leads Colombia toward a more peaceful and prosperous future.