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Bush Boosts Tsunami Aid to $350 Million

President Bush is promising $350 million to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, as the death toll across a dozen countries approaches 125,000. Secretary of State Colin Powell will be leading a U.S. delegation to South Asia to assess what is needed most.

President Bush says initial U.S. assessments indicate that the need for financial and other help will steadily increase in the days and weeks ahead.

In a written statement from his Texas ranch, Mr. Bush committed $350 million to fund the U.S. portion of the relief effort, and said those contributions will continue to be revised as the full effects of the tragedy become clearer.

The new aid figure is 10 times the $35 million that Washington initially pledged. That first amount drew some criticism, considering the size and wealth of the United States when compared to Britain's pledge of $95 million, or Sweden's pledge of $75 million.

Nicobari tribe boy from Car Nicobar Islands holds a food packet at a relief camp
Announcing the new aid, President Bush said the United States is leading an international coalition to help with immediate humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and long-term reconstruction efforts, along with India, Japan and Australia. He says he is confident many more nations will soon join what he calls this core group.

To help coordinate the massive relief effort, the president says disaster response officials have established a support center in Thailand.

More than 20 U.S. patrol and cargo aircraft have been made available to assess the disaster, and deliver relief supplies. He says the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, a maritime squadron from Guam and an amphibious ship carrying a Marine Expeditionary Unit will soon be in position to support relief efforts, including supplying clean water.

President Bush says he has been closely monitoring the developments, as well as recovery and relief efforts underway. He says he looks forward to the report of a U.S. delegation that will be traveling to the region, led by Secretary Powell and the president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

In a written New Year's statement, President Bush said the past few days have brought loss and grief to the world that is beyond comprehension. He said his prayers go out to the people of the Indian Ocean region, who have lost so much, and the United States will continue to stand with the affected governments to bring aid to those in need.