The United States has dramatically increased efforts to provide emergency aid and relief for South Asia in the wake of Sunday's earthquake and tidal wave in the Indian Ocean.
U.S. military officials say emergency assessment teams have been flown to Thailand and Sri Lanka to consult with governments in the region about their countries' most urgent needs and how the United States can assist them.
Already, America's armed forces have airlifted food, water and temporary shelter structures to Thailand for distribution to affected areas. Now, eleven ships are being dispatched to the region, including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, sent from Hong Kong, and the USS Bonhomme Richard amphibious assault ship, sent from Guam.
Major Guillermo Canedo, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, says the two navy groups, with some 15,000 sailors and Marines, are heading to the South China Sea and the Bay of Bengal to await orders. Major Canedo says the groups possess surgical wards, engineering and construction capabilities, and much more that will be put to use once the assessment teams finish their work.
"They carry water-making units that can provide about 50,000 gallons [190 thousand liters] of fresh water each day. And also super-lift helicopters and medium-lift helicopters that can be used for a variety of missions to include search and rescue as well as transport of relief supplies."
Major Canedo says a joint task force has been established to oversee U.S. relief efforts and will be headed by a Marine Lt. General stationed at Okinawa, Japan.