THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Saturday, November 14, 1998
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RADIO ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT AND MRS. GORE TO THE NATION
The Roosevelt Room
THE PRESIDENT: Today I would like to talk about the hurricane
that struck Central America two weeks ago and what we in the United
States are doing to help. I'm joined by Tipper Gore, who will describe
her trip leading our delegation to the region.
As Hurricane Mitch swept across the Caribbean we were spared the
brunt of the storm. But our neighbors in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador
and Guatemala were not so lucky. We know the terrible death toll in
those nations -- more than 10,000 lives so far. But that figure only
begins to convey the devastation.
Hundreds of thousands are homeless. Mudslides and collapsed bridges
have made it difficult to send help. In huge areas people have still
almost no food and water. Roads, farms, schools, hospitals, all have
Tipper Gore led our presidential mission to the region, and she
just reported to me on the conditions there. I'd like to ask her now
to tell what she saw.
MRS. GORE: Thank you, Mr. President.
In Honduras, we visited a neighborhood devastated by the storm.
We joined the effort to clean up a school that will become a medical
facility. That night I slept in a tent outside a shelter with homeless
families, where I met a woman who was six months pregnant, a grandmother
who was carrying for four of her grandchildren, and a man who was
alone and blind. They had all lost everything. They are now living
together in one room, sleeping on mats.
In Nicaragua, I visited a refugee site for more than a thousand
men, women and children whose homes along a riverbank are gone. The
conditions are unimaginable. The government has allocated a plot of
land which is divided into parcels, one per family. Their shelter
consists of sheets of plastic. Disease is rampant, and their biggest
concerns right now are food, water and medicine.
Yet everywhere I was struck by the spirit of the people. They are
not defeated. They're cleaning up and they are rebuilding their lives.
In Honduras, community leaders are working to help those most in need
to get supplies to the outlying areas. In the makeshift shelters in
Managua, many people were measuring foundations for new walls they
will build when the materials are available.
You can see that this disaster has destroyed their homes, but not
their spirits. They will survive. And we will stand with them as they
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, Tipper. Thank you for the trip and for
your recommendations for what the United States should do next.
Next Monday the First Lady will also visit the region. We want to
do everything we can to help -- now and over the long run. To quickly
address the catastrophe, I ordered $80 million in emergency aid. Over
1,300 American troops are assisting with relief efforts, providing
food, water and medicine. Engineers are rebuilding roads. Helicopters
and planes are delivering vital supplies -- 1.3 million tons to date.
And more help is on the way.
In the wake of Mrs. Gore's trip, I am announcing today that we will
offer $45 million in additional defense goods and services to provide
the resources our troops need to continue their critical work toward
I've also asked Secretary of the Treasury Bob Rubin to find the
best way to provide debt relief and emergency financial aid from the
United States and the international community. We've already encouraged
international institutions to provide more than $500 million in near-term
financial aid, and we're working with them to secure sufficient money
Finally, we intend to extend our stay of deportation through the
holidays for citizens of the affected countries living in the United
States, while examining on an urgent basis recommendations for further
relief, consistent with the recommendation Mrs. Gore made to me.
A storm shows no respect for boundaries, and we should respond the
same way. Many American citizens have relatives in Central America;
our nations are related, too. They are our friends and our neighbors.
We are going to share the future together. America is at its best
when lending a helping hand to friends in need. Central Americans
have taken great strides in the last decade in ending conflicts and
strengthening democracies. We must not, and we will not, let a hurricane
drown these aspirations.
The United States will spare no aid to people of Central America
-- our fellow Americans -- as we all strive to build a better world
in a new century.
Thanks for listening.