USAID Sends a Disaster Assessment Team to Poland and the Czech Republic





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Contact: Renee Bafalis

A team from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will leave tomorrow for Poland and the Czech Republic to assess the humanitarian situation due to the unusually heavy floods in the region.

The assessment team from USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, will be composed of a team leader, a program/information officer, and two specialists with expertise in public health and water and sanitation. The team will also be joined by two Department of Defense personnel, who will assist in the assessment.

Last week President Clinton met with Polish Premier Cimoszewicz in Warsaw and expressed his sympathy for the country's flood victims and offered to provide U.S. disaster assistance if needed.

At the direction of President Clinton, the U.S. government, through USAID, provided $100,000 to Poland and another $100,000 to the Czech Republic. The funds were provided to the local Red Cross societies to purchase emergency humanitarian relief materials such as tents, blankets, water purification equipment and food supplies.

In Poland, more than 40,000 farms, 86 towns and 875 villages have been affected. Nearly 132,000 people have been forced from their homes, of which 72,000 still have not returned. At least 46 people have been killed. Approximately 40,000 are without electricity, drinking water or communications. Five border crossings between Poland and the Czech Republic have been closed. Roads between the west of Poland and the Czech Republic, which were adversely affected by rains,have been closed, with rain destroying 45 bridges and forcing traffic to pass through Germany.

In the Czech Republic, widespread flooding has occurred throughout one-third of the country. At least 43 people are known dead and thousands are homeless. The transportation infrastructure has been badly damaged and water supplies have been contaminated over a wide area. Much of Ostrava, the country's third largest city and a major industrial center, is without electricity. Damage has been estimated at $2 billion.

The USAID team is expected to spend five days in each country and will report on its findings and make recommendations for an appropriate course of action.

USAID is the U.S. government agency that administers economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide.