Thu, Dec 30, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Cabinet prepares more aid

TSUNAMI RELIEF The nation will provide US$5 million in aid and will also dispatch a 100-person medical team to needy countries within the next two days, the premier said

By Ko Shu-ling and Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Members of a Taiwanese rescue team check equipment before starting a search for bodies in the village of Ban Khuk Khak near the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park, Thailand yesterday. The joint German and Taiwanese rescue team headed to the worst-hit area of Khao Lak on Tuesday as Thailand's authorities said more than 700 bodies had been retrieved from the northern Phuket area following Sunday's tidal waves.

PHOTO: EPA

The Taiwanese government will dole out US$5 million more in financial aid to Asian countries devastated by the tidal waves caused by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, among other relief assistance, the Executive Yuan said yesterday.

"As a responsible member of the global village, we feel obligated to offer a helping hand to those countries in need, especially in such a dire and critical situation," Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) told a press conference held after the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday morning.

Chen made the remarks after briefing Premier Yu Shyi-kun on the progress of government relief efforts during the weekly meeting. Chen was assigned by Yu to head a task force established under the ministry to coordinate the nation's relief efforts. The government offered the Indonesian government US$100,000 and the Thai, Indian and Sri Lankan governments US$50,000 respectively in immediate financial aid.

The additional US$5 million in relief funds will come from the foreign ministry's annual budget for emergency funds. Yu ordered the Cabinet's Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics to offer the ministry necessary financial assistance if the ministry finds it difficult to come up with the money, according to Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁).

In addition to the US$5 million in financial support, Yu requested a 100-person medical team to depart for disaster-hit countries within two days to provide necessary medical aid.

High-ranking Cabinet officials were also asked to contribute one day's salary, while other mid- or lower-level functionaries are welcome to follow suit if they choose to do so over the next three days.

Meanwhile, Mark Chen met with representatives from India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to learn more about their needs so that the ministry's task force, set up to help countries ravaged by the disaster, could coordinate relief efforts offered by the government more efficiently.

After meeting with the repre-sentatives, Chen told reporters that the government would concentrate its aid on Thailand and Indonesia because the representatives from India and Malaysia told him their countries could cope with the impact of the disaster themselves.

"They said their countries don't need aid in any form from the outside world but expressed thanks for our government's concern," Chen said.

Indonesia's representative, Ferry Yahya, said his country urgently needs financial aid, medicine, drinking water and medical experts, including forensic doctors. Thailand also expressed similar needs, according to Chen.

Taiwan has no representative offices in Sri Lanka and the Maldives and therefore lacks official channels to deliver aid there. India's representative Vijay Gokhale said his nation would be happy to provide logistics and transportation to help Taiwan send aid to the two countries, Chen said.

The US$5 million in funds will be spent on relief efforts or be sent to needy nations in the coming days and weeks, the minister said.

The ministry reported yesterday that many Taiwanese tourists' belongings and passports had been washed away when tidal waves hit the countries where they were holidaying.

To help stranded Taiwanese tourists return, the ministry has instructed its consular officials in 11 countries or regions, including Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Bangladesh, to issue new passports to the tourists and facilitate their trips home, the ministry said in a statement.

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