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CNN Today

USAID Assists Quake Victims

Aired January 15, 2001 - 2:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to return you here to our top story of this hour -- in fact many hours of the day -- and that is the earthquake and the terrible damage done in Central America in El Salvador. More than 400 people are known dead. Joining us on the telephone line from the quake zone is Joseph Schultz; he's with the U.S. Agency for International Development sent down there to help with the relief efforts.

Mr. Schultz, we appreciate you joining us. Can you tell us exactly where you are, and what you are seeing?

JOSEPH SCHULTZ, U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: I'm actually -- I'm currently at the U.S.A.I.D. headquarters. I'm not seeing anything at the moment. We have a five-person team right now at Las Colinas coordinating with local El Salvadorian officials, firefighters, police officers, military, and then emergency teams that have flown in from all over the regions. They have teams from Panama, Mexico, from Nicaragua, from Honduras, Guatemala. Every one is really rallying together to help El Salvador out at this time.

CHEN: We are seeing pictures taken throughout the weekend and people making their rescue efforts -- really doing things by hand. Is that still underway now, or are people moving on more to try to shore up what remains of their lives. Are their still rescue efforts going on?

SCHULTZ: There are still rescue efforts going on and will be for the foreseeable future. The fight people -- we have people working out of the operation -- the Emergency Operations Center, which is the overall coordination for the country. We actually have literally people at Las Colinas right now helping establish a systematic search of the entire area that was covered in dirt.

CHEN: Do you have any idea whether there are people out there alive? I mean, have there been any indications; has anyone heard?

SCHULTZ: Last night, we flew in -- we got in last evening with a load of commodity supplies -- 28,000 pounds of emergency supplies. We were able to make out to Las Colinas before nightfall. It was very difficult to work; there's no electricity in the area. But we were able to make it out just at dusk, and they were, at that time able -- they were working on extracting someone from underneath a house covered in dirt. So I can't tell you at this moment whether -- what the current status is up to the minute, but as of last night they had found someone and were working to extract them. And then they're systematically working the area right now, hoping to find more people.

CHEN: When you go into a situation like this, are you trained to assist with the efforts at digging or is your position really there to coordinate search efforts -- to coordinate?

SCHULTZ: The team we have here -- USA (ph) team is the overall coordinator for the U.S. government response. So we -- in this case, we have teams from all over the region. Dozens and dozens and dozens of people who are here to help through the digging and who are here to help move the dirt. We are helping make sure that digging and that excavating is targeted to the right areas and is most effective and will be getting the best results in the least time and in the safest manner.

CHEN: We see the difficulty that the people there are suffering through, and we know they appreciate your help. What's your suggestion for folks in the United States who want to help out?

SCHULTZ: Folks from the United States who want to help out -- the best thing to do, if you have an Internet connection, go to -- it's called "volunteers and technical assistants" -- it's vita.orig. It's a clearinghouse for donations to international stashers (ph). There will be a phone number. They'll point you in the right direction, tell you who is operating here, who can use donations, what kind of donations they need, and how to get them where you need to get them to, to get them to the right people.

CHEN: Joseph Schultz with the U.S. Agency for International Development on the telephone line, with us from Las Colinas in El Salvador.

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