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Powell, Jeb Bush to lead U.S. team


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Powell will lead a U.S. delegation to the region to determine what other help is needed.
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CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- A U.S. delegation headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, will travel to southern Asia Sunday to assess humanitarian needs, a White House spokesman said Thursday.

Their itinerary will be set by the State Department, deputy White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters.

He said President Bush had been closely monitoring the unfolding tragedy.

Reading from a statement by President Bush, Duffy said, "All Americans are shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of life and the destruction around the Indian Ocean.

"In this hour of critical need, America is joining with other nations and international organizations do everything possible to provide assistance and relief to the victims and their families."

The death toll from the tsunamis and the earthquake that triggered them on Sunday has jumped to more than 118,000, with Indonesia reporting nearly 80,000 people dead.

Bush said he is sending the delegation of experts to the region because a first-hand assessment will determine what additional help is needed.

The United States has pledged $35 million in cash assistance, and Duffy said the president is satisfied that international coalitions are coming together to address the tragedy.

Cargo aircraft, support personnel, naval units and aid shipments have been dispatched from the United States.

In explaining why Jeb Bush was chosen to make the trip, Bush's statement said, "He has extensive experience in the state of Florida with relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts."

This year, Jeb Bush oversaw one of the most traumatic hurricane seasons in Florida history. The state was battered by an unprecedented four hurricanes in a single season -- Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne -- which killed more than 100 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

The two-month barrage of storms triggered the nation's largest relief effort in history.

Duffy added, "He's also the president's brother, and I think it signifies the high level of importance the president puts on this delegation."


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