Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, back from touring the ruination from the tsunami in South Asia, plans to tell the incoming U.S. secretary of state that America should help the countries in the region establish emergency response plans to help handle future disasters.
Bush, in Washington on family and state business, said he witnessed unfathomable scenes of death and destruction that exceeded any hurricane damage he has ever seen, describing destroyed roads, homes and factories. In Indonesia, giant swaths of rubble still cover the dead.
"You could smell the stench of decaying human bodies," Bush said at the Hall of States, near the U.S. Capitol. "It's nothing that you could imagine here."
He added, "Each time I'm involved with something like this, I count my blessings. All Americans should count their blessings."
More than 150,000 people are believed dead, mostly in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, after a massive earthquake last month spawned tidal waves in the Indian Ocean. President Bush has pledged $350-million in disaster aid, and the U.S. military is spending at least $100-million more.
Citing Florida's experience with hurricanes, President Bush asked Gov. Bush, his brother, to accompany Secretary of State Colin Powell on a fact-finding trip to the region last week.
He returned to Washington Thursday night, just in time for a White House party celebrating the 60th wedding anniversary of his parents, former President George and Barbara Bush.
Gov. Bush has repeatedly denied he will run for president in 2008, when his brother's second term expires, but some analysts speculated the trip was part of his presidential grooming. Asked if the visit was meant to raise his national and international standing for a run at the presidency, Bush emphatically shook his head and said no.
He said tsunami victims and their governments deeply appreciate the American aid.
While the United States and other Western nations have proposed helping them establish a system for warning them of another earthquake, Bush said what the region really needs is a plan and the resources to provide medicine, food and other emergency care soon after disaster strikes.
Instead, help didn't come until U.S. troops and aid arrived, especially in the Indonesian province of Aceh.
Bush said he would deliver that message Friday afternoon to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who has been nominated to replace Powell next month.
"In our case we have a trained workforce basically that prepares for natural disaster," Bush said. "None of that effort was in place to be able to recover quickly. The government of Indonesia almost has to do this from a standing start."
Bush also met Friday with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. On Tuesday the governor plans to unveil proposed reforms to the state's Medicaid system, the government health insurance program for the poor, and he wanted to give Thompson an early peek. The U.S. government also helps fund Medicaid, and significant changes may require federal approval.
Swedish boy, 2, recalls "the big stupid wave'
STOCKHOLM, Sweden _ Two-year-old Hannes Bergstroem, back home in Sweden with his father, doesn't understand much about the tsunami that swept him away in Thailand, though he "talks about "the big stupid wave,' " his father said Friday.
Nor has the toddler yet grasped that the wall of water that somehow left him unscathed except for a few cuts and bruises likely killed his mother, Suzanne.
Hannes' mosquito-bitten face became a symbol of hope after the story of his survival was circulated worldwide by the media.
Hannes seems emotionally fine, Marko Karkkainen said.
"He's taken baths in the bathtub now, he doesn't seem traumatized by it," he said. "He hasn't swum in the ocean yet, though."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.