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Bush announces tsunami aid coalition

Disaster is 'beyond our comprehension'

President Bush at a news conference Wednesday offers condolences to nations affected by the tsunamis.
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The death toll in Thailand continues to rise.

ITN's John Irvine's dramatic escape from the tsunamis.

The relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis.
Special Report:  Waves of destruction
• Aid agencies: Who you can contact to help
• Map of region: Nations affected
India: +91 11 2309 3054

Thailand: +66 2643 5262 and 2643 5000

Sri Lanka (residents): +94 11 536 1938
Sri Lanka (tourists): +94 11 243 7061

Maldives: +44 20 7224 2149

Seychelles: +248 321 676

For Hong Kong residents: +852 2829 3010

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday that he has formed an international coalition to respond to the massive tsunami disaster along coastlines of the Indian Ocean.

The president interrupted his vacation at his Texas ranch to speak with reporters for the first time since Sunday's earthquake-triggered waves killed tens of thousands of people.

"It's just beyond our comprehension to think about how many lives have been lost," Bush said. (Full story)

He announced that the United States has "established a regional core group with India, Japan and Australia to help coordinate relief efforts. I'm confident more nations will join this core group in short order."

Bush said the tsunamis that hit parts of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other coastal areas represented "one of the major natural disasters in world history." (Full story)

"Clearly there wasn't a proper warning system in place for that part of the world," Bush said. "And it seems like to me it makes sense for the world to come together to develop a warning system that will help all nations." (Full story)

Some of the tsunamis reached as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the epicenter of the 9.0-magnitude quake, which was located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island at a depth of about 6 miles (10 kilometers).

Offering condolences, Bush said, "our prayers go out to the people who've lost so much to this series of disasters."

"Our embassies are working with host governments to locate American citizens who are still missing and to assist those who have been injured or displaced," Bush said. (Full story)

Bush also announced that the Pentagon is "dispatching a Marine expeditionary unit, the aircraft carrier [USS] Abraham Lincoln and the maritime preposition squadron from Guam to the area to help with relief efforts."

"Our government is focused and will continue to respond to help those who suffer," Bush said.

On Monday, Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, criticized the world's "rich countries," saying, in general, that the amount of foreign aid they gave was "stingy."

In response, Bush said he "felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed."

Mentioning the $35 million in already-pledged U.S. aid, Bush said the United States is a "very generous, kind-hearted nation, and, you know, what you're beginning to see is a typical response from America." (Full story)

On Tuesday, Egeland said his comments had been misunderstood. "I have been misinterpreted when I yesterday said that my belief that rich countries in general can be more generous," Egeland said. "This has nothing to do with any particular country or the response to this emergency. We're in early days and the response has so far been overwhelmingly positive."

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