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. Bush offers Salvador, Guatemala help after storm
WASHINGTON (AFP) Oct 13, 2005
US President George W. Bush telephoned presidents Antonion Saca of El Salvador and Oscar Berger of Guatemala on Thursday to offer condolences in the wake of Tropical Storm Stan, the White House said.

"The president expressed our condolences for the loss of life and destruction caused by rains and mudslides in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Stan," said spokesman Scott McClellan.

The two Central American leaders thanked Bush for his expression of concern and US assistance, and Bush reiterated his commitment to work with El Salvador, Guatemala, and the international community to keep providing needed resources in response to the storm.

Torrential rains and mudslides in Guatemala have claimed more than 2,000 lives, with hundreds buried alive in the towns of Panabaj and Tzanchaj.

Guatemala has appealed for international assistance and thanked the United States for providing logistical support including a 60-person team of military planners and logistics experts, as well as the loan of up to 15 US helicopters.

Dozens of victims also perished in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

Another team of US experts was to depart for Guatemala late Thursday to assess what additional assistance is needed, the Miami-based US Southern Command said in a statement.

It said its Joint Task Force Bravo, operating nine helicopters from Guatemala City since October 7, has now established a forward base at Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, enabling it to conduct relief missions to isolated areas of northern Guatemala more easily.

To date US aircrews have evacuated 34 stranded Guatemalans and five US citizens to Guatemala City, transported 68 emergency aid workers and doctors to disaster zones and delivered nearly 81,000 pounds (37,000 kilograms) of food, medical supplies and equipment to affected areas, it said.

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