US President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised a "swift and aggressive" government response to the tsunami in the Pacific that hit Samoa, Tonga and their US-owned neighbour American Samoa, claiming at least 113 lives. "I am closely monitoring these tragic events, and have declared a major disaster for American Samoa, which will provide the tools necessary for a full, swift and aggressive response," Mr Obama said in a statement. The declaration of a major disaster allows the federal government to stump up money for temporary housing, clean up, repairs, unemployment aid and a range of temporary loans.
Mr Obama also pledged help for countries other than the US territory of American Samoa that have also been pummeled by the massive 8.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. "We also stand ready to help our friends in Samoa and the region," he said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier said it was dispatching two disaster recovery teams to affected areas, to assess the extend of the damage.
The agency, along with former president George W Bush, was lambasted for its tardy response to Hurricane Katrina which inundated New Orleans in August 2005. Mr Obama said the US Coast Guard would also help deploy "resources to those areas in need of immediate assistance." "Going forward, we will continue to provide the resources necessary to respond to this catastrophe, and we will keep those who have lost so much in our thoughts and prayers."