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US 'Deeply Concerned' about Flooding in Haiti, Dom. Republic - 2004-05-28

The United States is expressing deep concern about the flooding disaster in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and promising assistance. U.S. stabilization force troops in Haiti are already involved in relief efforts.

Mr. Powell says the United States will do everything it can to assist victims of this week's flood disaster in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, including pressing U.S. peacekeeping forces in Haiti into service in relief efforts.

At a news conference with foreign reporters in Washington, Mr. Powell underscored U.S. concern about the situation on the island of Hispaniola, where at least 1,000 people are reported to have been killed by flash floods and mudslides in the two countries:

"We are deeply concerned about the destruction and loss of life that has taken place in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti as a result of the recent rains, which have produced mudslides, and we are in touch with both governments," said Secretary Powell. "Fortunately we had some military forces, as did Canada, France and Chile and other nations in Haiti, that were providing peacekeeping activities that can now be used for humanitarian rescue operations."

Pentagon officials said U.S. crews Friday resumed helicopter flights with relief supplies to towns in Haiti left isolated by the flooding, this after operations had to be suspended Thursday because of bad weather.

Mr. Powell said the U.S. Agency for International Development is examining how best to get stockpiled disaster supplies such as food, medicine and plastic sheeting into the two Caribbean states.

In the meantime, the U.S. ambassadors to Haiti and the Dominican Republic have both tapped $50,000 contingency funds for local emergencies to get aid moving.

Last Monday, the Bush administration announced it was nearly tripling U.S. aid to Haiti - to $160 million - to help its recovery from political unrest earlier this year.

Officials here say Haiti's plight will be one of the issues Secretary Powell will raise when he attends the General Assembly of the Organization of American States June 7 in the Ecuadoran capital, Quito.