US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said just as the United States responded generously to disasters worldwide, so had nearly 60 nations come to America’s side after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and other parts of the US Gulf Coast, killing hundreds and possibly thousands of people.
“Today, we are seeing a similar urgent, warm and compassionate reaction from the international community in response to Katrina,” Ms Rice told a news conference.
Ms Rice said no aid had been turned down and she was particularly moved by an offer from Sri Lanka, itself recovering from last year’s Indian Ocean tsunami.
“Every contribution is important,” said Ms Rice, who plans to visit some of the stricken areas over the weekend in Alabama, where her own family comes from.
The State Department has set up a task force to cope with the dozens of offers coming in from foreign nations, trying to match them up with needs on the ground.
Embassies in the US capital have swamped the department with offers, ranging from cash donations to helicopters, tents and medical teams.
While help has come from long-time American friends such as Japan, Germany, Australia, Canada, France and Britain, offers have also been made by critics of the US government, including Cuba and Venezuela.
Cuban President Fidel Castro, calling a “truce” in Havana’s ideological enmity with Washington, offered to fly 1,100 doctors to Houston with 26 tonnes of medicine to treat people in the disaster area.
Castro’s leftist ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered to send cheap fuel but the State Department said a decision had not been made on whether to accept this offer.
In Mexico City, a Foreign Ministry official told reporters Mexico was sending 15 truckloads of water, food and medical supplies via Texas, and the Mexican navy had offered to send two ships, two helicopters and 15 amphibious vehicles.
Ms Rice cancelled her vacation this week and returned to work when the devastation from the hurricane became clear. She said she had spoken via telephone to her counterparts in a number of foreign capitals.
“In my discussions with my counterparts, I’ve been heartened at their offers of both short-term and long-term support,” she said.
The State Department has also been trying to track down all of its 165 employees who work at a busy passport office in New Orleans and has tried to secure the office from looters.
In addition, State Department specialists who usually are used abroad in disasters have been assigned to help with the relief efforts.
The department said offers of help had been received from: Australia, Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, China, Columbia, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, the European Union, France, Germany, Guatemala, Greece, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, NATO, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Organization of American States, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Health Organization.