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US sending six more helicopters for relief efforts in Guatemala
TAMPA, Florida (AFP) Oct 11, 2005
The United States will send six additional helicopters to Guatemala in the next few days to help in relief efforts for the victims of deadly Tropical Storm Stan, a senior US Defense Department official said Tuesday.

"Right now there are nine helicopters on the ground and we are going to get up to 15 ... in the coming days," Roger Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, told reporters.

He was speaking during a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Florida.

The United States has sent Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, as well as four C-130 transport planes, to deliver water, food and medicines to the storm's victims.

Guatemalan authorities announced Tuesday that search and rescue operations had ended, and the 1,400 people who were missing after a mudslide were believed dead, bringing the death toll in the wake of last week's storm to more than 2,000.

US General Bantz Craddock, commander of the Miami-based US Southern Command, arrived in Guatemala Monday to help coordinate relief efforts.

According to Pardo-Maurer, the general plans to bring in additional Chinook helicopters to the stricken country, where forecasters expect rain to continue for a week to 10 days.

Rumsfield, speaking to reporters as he traveled by plane, said of the devastation: "It looks like it is a terrible natural disaster. Heartbreaking."

The defense secretary is to attend Wednesday a two-day meeting of his counterparts from seven Central American countries in Key Biscayne, Florida.

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