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U.S. ups tsunami aid from $35 million to $350 million

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Indonesia struggles after tsunami wiped out much of Aceh province.

Doctors vacationing in Sri Lanka stay to help victims.

Photographs capture the devastation after the tsunamis.
United Nations
Patrick Leahy

(CNN) -- -- The United States will increase its aid pledge from $35 million to $350 million to help victims of the tsunamis in south Asia, CNN has learned.

The increase followed criticism that the initial amount was far from enough.

The director of the U.S. Agency for International Development told CNN on Friday that the $35 million pledge was only the first step in U.S. aid to the countries that were devastated by Sunday's earthquake and tsunamis.

"The money was committed on Sunday when the emergency took place," Andrew Natsios told CNN's "American Morning." "It's action on the ground that is needed. We will get more than enough money from the president and I'm sure Congress later on when we need it."

Sen. Patrick Leahy Thursday said the intial U.S. offer "gave the wrong impression to the rest of the world."

"That's about half of what the little country of Spain is spending," the Vermont Democrat said. "We have to spend a great deal more than that. We should have been eagerly telling that part of the word, especially the Muslim part of that world, that we here in America are generous, a good people, and we are strongly committed to help them."

More than 135,000 deaths had been reported Friday in several countries along the Indian Ocean and that number was expected to climb as reports come in from remote parts of the region.

Getting aid into Indonesia's Aceh province has been difficult because of an ongoing civil war. Natsios said the U.S. has been able to reallocate staff and supplies into areas of the province that were untouched for four days after the quake and subsequent tsunami struck.

United Nations officials said that the international community had pledged a combined half-a-billion dollars in support, and that figure jumped to more than $800 million Friday when the United States increased its pledge.

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