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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 00:43 GMT

World: Americas

More US aid for Mitch victims

Mrs Clinton said more US troops and equipment would aid reconstruction

On a visit to Central America to see the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, President Clinton's wife, Hillary, has announced a new $160m aid package for the region

Hurricane Mitch
Speaking in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, Mrs Clinton said there would be extra food aid and funds for reconstruction.

Standing alongside Honduran first lady, Mary Flake Wood de Flores, Mrs Clinton praised "the great spirit" of the Honduran people and said the United States was ready to offer more resources to help the region recover and reconstruction.

Hillary Clinton: "We'll do all that we can"
Washington is also cancelling two years of debt payments from Honduras and Nicaragua.

Mrs Clinton's announcement brings US assistance to Central America to more than $250m.

High-profile visitors

The French President, Jacques Chirac, is also in the region, as are the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Emma Bonino, and Prince Felipe of Spain.

[ image: Lack of drinking water threatens to cause widespead disease]
Lack of drinking water threatens to cause widespead disease
Mr Chirac said he had been "filled with admiration" for the Honduran people after visiting parts of Tegucigalpa worst hit by the storms.

The high-profile visits come as the authorities in Central America are struggling to stop the spread of disease.

More than 11,000 people are thought to have died in Central America since Hurricane Mitch struck the region.

For those that survived the storm caused widespread destruction to the region's infrastructure, crippling local and national economies.

Threat of disease

Already thousands of businesses have laid off workers after factories and plantations were destroyed by the storms.

[ image: Much of the region's infrastructure was washed away]
Much of the region's infrastructure was washed away
Without food people are also increasingly susceptible to disease and there have been a number of outbreaks of cholera caused by a lack of clean drinking water.

Recently Honduran officials have warned that the economic fall-out left by the hurricane could trigger a wave of migration northwards to the US.

Included in the new package announced by Mrs Clinton is $17m to be spent on providing loans enabling small businesses to reopen.

She said reconstruction would have to be a long-term commitment but that it was "very important that all of us work together to rebuild lives and rebuild this country".

US troops

Mrs Clinton also announced that the US would quadruple the number of soldiers in the region to 5,600, to help with reconstruction.

Fifty-five US military helicopters will also join the relief effort to reach areas cut off from other forms of transport.

US troops will be bringing in bridge- and road-building equipment, as well as an emergency hospital and water purifying plants.

International lenders from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have also pledged assistance for Honduras and Nicaragua in paying their debts by including them in a debt reduction programme for the world's poorest states.

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