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Former Presidents Clinton and Bush in Thailand to Assess Post-Tsunami Needs


Former US presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush arrived on Thailand's Phuket Island Saturday - the first stop on their tour of regions devastated by December's tsunami. As Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, the envoys say they hope to combat donor fatigue so rebuilding can continue.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush began their four-nation tour of tsunami-affected areas on Thailand's Phuket Island Saturday. The December 26th Tsunami killed almost 290,000 people in nations rimming the Indian Ocean. Thailand lost 54,00, with three thousand people still missing and presumed dead.

Mr. Clinton, speaking on his arrival above the drone of airplane engines, said he and Mr. Bush want to assess what is still needed.

"I just want to see what's being done, thank people, see what else we can do."

Public and private donors have pledged some five billion dollars in tsunami relief - with almost a billion of that from the United States.

Last month, President Bush appointed his father, George H.W. Bush, and his predecessor in the White House, Bill Clinton, to head up the American relief efforts.

It is hoped their stature will keep donor fatigue from setting in before Indian Ocean nations have recovered. Sunday, the former presidents will visit Indonesia's Aceh Province - the most devastated area closest to the earthquake, which sparked the tsunami.

Early Saturday, a powerful earthquake hit parts of Indonesia's Sulawesi Island causing panic but no reports of casualties or wave surges. The U.S. Geological Survey says the December 26th earthquake was five thousand times more powerful than this tremor.

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