Katrina: 50 Plus Countries Pledge Hurricane Aid to U.S.
The devastation from Hurricane Katrina has promped more than 50 countries to offer aid to the United States, including some with whom we’ve been at odds.
In an accelerating drive, more than 50 countries have pledged money or other assistance to help Americans recover from Hurricane Katrina. Cuba and Venezuela have offered to help despite differences with Washington. Oil giant Saudi Arabia and small countries like Sri Lanka and Dominica are among the nations making pledges.
“I hope that will remind Americans that we are all part of the same community,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday as offers kept pouring in. None has been turned down, Rice said at a news conference, disputing a report from Moscow that a Russian offer had been rejected. However, she said some offers were being taken up immediately and others “somewhat later,” depending on the needs on the ground.
But Cuban President Fidel Castro said he hoped an offer made Tuesday to send 1,100 Cuban doctors would be accepted “immediately so as not to lose another minute.” Castro said in a live broadcast in Havana Friday night that he had just sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. mission in Havana to make the offer a second time.
In her news conference, Rice singled out Sri Lanka for praise for making a contribution even as it struggles to recover from the tsunami and earthquake disaster of last December. And she said contributions from poor countries were being accepted because “it is very valuable for people being able to give to each other and to be able to do so without a sense of means.”
Australia announced a donation of $8 million to the American Red Cross. “The United States is so often at the forefront of international aid efforts to help less fortunate nations,” Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. “So it is only fitting that Australia should contribute to the daunting task of helping the thousands of American citizens whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by this unprecedented disaster.”
France, “determined to show its solidarity with the United States,” offered a range of aircraft and two ships, with helicopters and planes capable of airlifting tons of supplies, a disaster unit with 20 soldiers, a civil defense detachment of 35 people and an airborne emergency unit, the French Embassy said.
Canada is loading three warships and a coast guard vessel in Halifax with emergency supplies and food, and will dispatch them to Louisiana next Tuesday, Dan McTeague, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew, said in an interview. Up to 1,000 divers, engineers and reconstruction experts will be aboard, McTeague said. Prime Minister Paul Martin has announced the release of 30,000 barrels of gasoline and oil for U.S. use.
Japan said it would contribute $200,000 to the American Red Cross for its relief operations. Upon request, Japan is prepared to provide up to $300,000 worth of tents, blankets, power generators, portable water tanks and other equipment, the Japanese Embassy said.
By Friday, offers had been received from Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belgium, Britain, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Georgia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.
All these offers should be graciously and gratefully accepted. Natural disasters transcend politics and, at the same time, can remind us of our common humanity.
Of course, that works both ways. The images of filth, squalor, and mayhem have shown that, despite its wealth, the United States is not without its flaws.
The world has watched amazed as the planet’s only superpower struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with some saying the chaos has exposed flaws and deep divisions in American society. World leaders and ordinary citizens have expressed sympathy with the people of the southern United States whose lives were devastated by the hurricane and the flooding that followed.
But many have also been shocked by the images of disorder beamed around the world — looters roaming the debris-strewn streets and thousands of people gathered in New Orleans waiting for the authorities to provide food, water and other aid.
“Anarchy in the USA” declared Britain’s best-selling newspaper The Sun.
“Apocalypse Now” headlined Germany’s Handelsblatt daily.
The pictures of the catastrophe — which has killed hundreds and possibly thousands — have evoked memories of crises in the world’s poorest nations such as last year’s tsunami in Asia, which left more than 230,000 people dead or missing. But some view the response to those disasters more favorably than the lawless aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering,” said Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36, as he watched a cricket match in Colombo, Sri Lanka. “Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world’s population is.”
I’m not sure that it’s true that there was no crime in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami and it goes without saying that the criminals in New Orleans are a tiny fraction of the population. Still, it’s not the image the United States would like to project to the world.