Media Center

On relief efforts in the wake of Tsunami

December 30, 2004

Official Spokesperson: You are all watching the developments in the wake of the Tsunami disaster and the relief and rescue efforts that have been launched. In addition to the information put out by us this morning, I thought I should update you on some other points.

President George Bush and US Secretary of State, Colin Powell had spoken to Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and EAM, Shri K. Natwar Singh yesterday on the proposal to form a coordinating group of India, Australia, Japan and the United States based on the capabilities and resources that these countries have to effect relief in areas that have been worst affected by the Tsunami disaster. It was conveyed that India would be prepared to join in this humanitarian effort. Following these conversations, a teleconference was held this morning between US Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman, Australian Permanent Secretary, Douglas Chester, Director General of the Japanese Economic Cooperation Bureau, SATO and Foreign Secretary, Shri Shyam Saran. This conference was initiated by Mr. Grossman in order to coordinate relief and rescue efforts and welcomed by the others.

The main purpose of the coordination effort is to avoid duplication of efforts, identify gaps in the relief process and find ways and means to address these deficiencies. A videoconference will be held tomorrow between the Washington-based Ambassadors of India, Australia and Japan with Mr. Grossman and UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. This group of four countries has agreed to work together closely with the UN and examine where the relief effort can best be channelised through the UN.

Foreign Secretary acquainted the other members of the group with the relief and rescue efforts already launched by India for Sri Lanka and Maldives, including substantial assistance being provided through deployment of Indian naval ships and aircraft, including helicopters. These had been deeply appreciated by Sri Lanka and Maldives and are continuing. This could be expanded further as needed. As far as the disaster in South India and Island territories is concerned, India is confident that we will be able to deal with the challenges with our own resources and international relief therefore could be directed where it is most urgently required.

It is quite possible that another teleconference at the Foreign Secretary level, with Mr. Shyam Saran talking to his counterparts in these countries (US, Japan and Australia) would take place tomorrow.

External Affairs Minister also has been following these developments very closely. Today he has spoken to our Ambassadors in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to get an update on the latest situation and to inform them of the relief that is being extended wherever it is necessary and wherever we can do so at the earliest.

You already have some details of these relief elements but I thought I should give you some more. The elements of Rs. 100 crore as composite relief package for Sri Lanka and Rs. 5 crore for Maldives have already been announced earlier.

In addition, for Sri Lanka two Ilyushin-76 aircrafts carrying military field hospitals are expected to reach tomorrow. Earlier, 4 naval vessels and 7 helicopters have been in operation. One of these naval vessels - INS Sandhayak - is being converted to a hospital ship. The others are doing work of ferrying the supplies, clearing the harbours and helping the helicopter operations.

Similarly, hospital ship INS Nirupak will be leaving for Sumatra, Indonesia tonight. It will be carrying emergency rations, medicines, tents and first aid kits. It will have 10 officers and 240 sailors on board.

Maldives, there are 4 aircrafts and 2 naval ships already in operation. Supplies have been ferried by aircrafts – Avros and Dorniers - and this has been evidently very successful because our High Commission there has said that at the moment there is no further requirement of supplies excepting such specific items as water canisters. Two of these aircrafts have been placed at the disposal of the Maldivian authorities and the other two are being used for search and rescue operations. They are also being used for airdropping of food and water packages and medical supplies in different places.

Besides the general relief and rescue effort, naturally the High Commissions have also been working on identifying, evacuating, assisting Indian nationals wherever they are. For instance, in Maldives our High Commissioner has undertaken extensive aerial survey over remote islands where Indian teachers are living in different places to identify them and see what assistance is needed. Similarly, in Indonesia, particularly in Medan which has 5000 strong community of Persons of India Origin and 500 NRIs, extensive work has been done by the Consulate and as you already know Control Rooms have been set up and assistance is being provided. So, this is a sort of an update.

Question: …inaudible…(on assistance from foreign governments)
Answer: As I said we have at present conveyed to them that our own assessments, those of our state governments, our agencies tell us that the impact of the disaster at the present can be handled by the Government of India within our own resources. So it is advisable that relief should be sent where it is most urgently needed. Nevertheless, were this situation to change and were we to feel that a particular support is needed from any international agency or quarter or country then that would be considered at that time.

Thank You.

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