Many Countries Offer Katrina Assistance

Dozens of countries offer aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina. They range from long-time allies, such as Germany, to frequent antagonists, such as Venezuela.

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Dozens of countries are offering aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They range from longtime allies, such as Germany, to frequent antagonists, such as Venezuela. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

COREY FLINTOFF reporting:

The offers came on a day when President Bush had told ABC-TV that he didn't anticipate receiving much aid from abroad.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do suspect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it.

FLINTOFF: By afternoon, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack reeled off a list of nations that have offered to help, a list he said was growing by the hour.

Mr. SEAN McCORMACK (State Department): Russia, Japan, Canada, France, Honduras, Germany...

FLINTOFF: McCormack said the offers included cash and technical assistance.

Mr. McCORMACK: Offers of medical teams, offers of assistance in helping to restore electrical power expertise.

FLINTOFF: Venezuela, which has had a rocky relationship with the US since President Hugo Chavez came to power, offered a million dollars for hurricane relief from the country's state petroleum company. The offer came with criticism from Chavez who called President Bush the king of vacations and questioned why the US didn't have a better evacuation plan. One of the first countries to offer assistance was Germany. Klaus-Peter Gottwald, the second in command at Germany's embassy in Washington, said his country has expertise gained during the Asian tsunami disaster and during recent floods of its own.

Mr. KLAUS-PETER GOTTWALD: We suddenly do know that the United States is a country which has almost anything at their disposal, but, I mean, you know, in an emergency, you might need some specialized equipment, you might need something just additional or you just need some additional hands with expertise.

FLINTOFF: Abby Maxman is the country director for CARE in Haiti. She says coordination is an enormous challenge for aid workers.

Ms. ABBY MAXMAN (CARE): There's a lot of well-intentioned people trying to help in their own way, and I know aid agencies have the double challenge of coordinating with other agencies, some who, again, well-intentioned might want to arrive on the scene without knowing the operating environment.

FLINTOFF: Neal Keny-Guyer, the CEO of the aid group Mercy Corps, says foreign countries can lend technical expertise, and he points to one particular area that could be crucial for victims of Katrina.

Mr. NEAL KENY-GUYER (CEO, Mercy Corps): A lot of the work that was done around the tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, for example, with children who saw their parents killed, their schools washed away, wiped away, you know, there was a lot of effort to develop art therapy and games and play. And some of those lessons could apply very well to the children that were affected by Katrina. And I hope we'll look at those lessons learned.

FLINTOFF: Abby Maxman of CARE also says the US will have to adopt a different mind-set if it accepts aid from other countries.

Ms. MAXMAN: And I think it'll be a challenge for us to move into a role where we are recipients of support and assistance as opposed to the providers or those who want to provide only and to accept that other people's experiences are valuable and appropriate and informed.

FLINTOFF: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is reviewing the offers of support and seeing whether they can be matched to needs in the area devastated by Katrina. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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