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90 nations offer aid to help U.S. with Katrina

More than 90 countries have offered aid to the United States following Katrina, including $1 million from impoverished Bangladesh, where millions live on a monsoon- and flood-prone delta.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Impoverished Bangladesh, where millions live on a monsoon- and flood-prone delta, pledged $1 million and offered rescuers. Thailand, recalling U.S. aid after last year's tsunami, offered to send 60 doctors and nurses as well as rice as a "gesture from the heart."

They are among more than 90 countries, rich and poor, proposing assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina, with Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates contributing "very large cash" donations, the State Department said Tuesday.

The Bush administration eagerly accepted a German offer of high-speed pumps to reduce the floodwaters in New Orleans and a Dutch offer of experts on levee reconstruction.

"There is a process of matching needs with expertise and the donations that have been made," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Some offers may not be accepted
He indicated that the U.S. health care system is meeting current needs stemming from the hurricane. That could mean that offers of medical experts from Cuba and other countries will not be accepted, but McCormack said no decisions have been made.

He said decisions on proposals from foreign governments will be based on needs and not political considerations. Cuba has offered 1,100 doctors for hurricane relief despite the hostile political relations between the two countries. Havana has repeatedly rejected U.S. offers of humanitarian relief over the years.

In some cases, relief was already on the way.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, three Canadian navy ships, a coast guard vessel, several Sea King helicopters and about 1,000 personnel were preparing to leave for Louisiana. The ships packed supplies for two to three months.

Help from Canada and Mexico
"Canada was built by neighbors helping neighbors in times of crisis. That doesn't apply just within our borders," Prime Minister Paul Martin said at the naval dockyard.

On Monday, the Mexican navy ship Papaloapan left the Gulf coast port of Tampico and headed for New Orleans with eight all-terrain rescue vehicles, seven amphibious cargo vehicles, a mobile hospital, two helicopters and drinking water.

A Mexican army convoy of 15 vehicles was to follow, carrying food, medical workers, water-treatment facilities and mobile kitchens capable of feeding 7,000 people daily.

"Mexico and the United States are nations which are neighbors and friends which should always have solidarity in moments of difficulty," President Vicente Fox said.

European Union spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said there were some transport problems with aid bound for the United States, noting that a Swedish transport plane filled with food and water-treatment tools had not been able to get landing permission.

Surprise by slow emergency response
Even as foreign governments offered aid, many people overseas expressed shock at the slow emergency response, poverty and racial inequality they say the images from New Orleans have exposed.

Jurek Kuczkiewicz, in an editorial this week in the Belgian newspaper Le Soir, noted that the United States had been confronted with a "human and economic toll immeasurably heavier than the attacks of 2001 on New York."

"It would not be unreasonable to think that the famous 'war on terror' will suddenly seem trivial with regard to the necessary war on poverty and inequality," he said.