Other Countries Reach Out with Katrina Aid

More than 40 nations and several international organizations have contacted the State Department with offers of assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Melissa Block and Robert Siegel talk to representatives of some countries wanting to help Americans in time of need.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

So now we know what it feels like to be a country that receives foreign aid.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars raised for relief inside the US, more than 40 nations and several international organizations have contacted the State Department with offers of assistance.

BLOCK: According to State, the big cash donors are the Persian Gulf oil states of Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Each has offered a hundred million dollars, and Kuwait's throwing in $400 million worth of oil.

SIEGEL: But there are a lot of countries less well-heeled and perhaps equally generous given the size of their treasuries.

BLOCK: Cyprus, Mongolia, the Bahamas and Djibouti are each sending $50,000.

SIEGEL: Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives are giving us $25,000.

BLOCK: And Bosnia-Herzegovina is sending $6,414.

SIEGEL: And that's just the cash. There are also the search and rescue teams from Finland and Israel, the tents and tarps and 150 relief workers from France, the forensics experts from Thailand and Germany. The list goes on and on, and it is expected to get longer.

BLOCK: Some of the most generous donors are neighbors.

SIEGEL: Canada is offering helicopters, medical supplies and more. Frank McKenna is Canada's ambassador to the United States, and he says the government in Ottawa has said to Washington it is ready to supply anything that's needed.

Ambassador FRANK McKENNA (Canadian Ambassador to the United States): That's included frigates, destroyers, coast guard vessels loaded with supplies. It includes navy divers, Red Cross personnel. It includes urban search and rescue people. It includes cots and blankets. And our own emergency--our own domestic emergency stockpile of health and safety materials have all been sent down, so everything and anything that's been desired.

SIEGEL: And these things have actually moved down the pipeline, and there are things in the area hit by Katrina.

Amb. McKENNA: Oh, immediately. Our urban search and rescue team of 45 people from Vancouver has been there and gone. They were there within the very early days. And our Red Cross people, Air Canada's had a plane down there, ferrying people back and forth to San Antonio. So, yes, as we speak, people are there, and they have been right from the very beginning.

A lot of people don't know this, but 250 years ago, the Acadians in Canada, in a terrible act of brutality, were forced out of their homes by the British. Tens of thousands of them were driven into the heartlands of America, separated from family. A lot of them ended up in Louisiana and became the Cajuns, and they were welcomed with open arms. And Canadians now welcome with open arms evacuees from Louisiana in the same way that it was done some 250 years ago.

SIEGEL: For many Americans, the past couple of weeks have been a time not only of crisis and tragedy, but for those of us far from the storm, for many, it's been a time of some embarrassment at the inability to cope a little bit more effectively with what has happened. I just wonder, when Canadians follow accounts of what has happened in Louisiana or Mississippi this past week, what do they see?

Amb. McKENNA: Canadians aren't judgmental about the way in which this crisis has been managed. They just see a people, neighbors and very close friends who are suffering, and they've extended the hand of friendship and support and will all the way through to the end.

SIEGEL: One other very important dimension to the US-Canadian relationship involves energy and oil.

Amb. McKENNA: Yes.

SIEGEL: Canada is a major oil supplier to the United States.

Amb. McKENNA: We're your largest energy supplier. We're bigger than any other country in the world, including Saudi Arabia, whether it's oil or gas or uranium or hydropower. And one of the other things that we've done is turn the taps right to the firewalls. Everything is running in Canada to try to get energy to you as you need it. We're trying to get maintenance put off that was scheduled on refineries. We are squeezing every drop of fuel that we can through the pipelines to make sure that we do our share to help you in this time of need.

SIEGEL: Well, Ambassador McKenna, in more than one way, thank you very much.

Amb. McKENNA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Frank McKenna is the Canadian ambassador to the United States.

BLOCK: Our neighbor to the south is pitching in, too. A Mexican army convoy is headed to Houston. The trucks carry water treatment plants, mobile kitchens and supplies. The 35 vehicles are scheduled to cross into this country at Laredo, Texas, tomorrow.

SIEGEL: And news reports remind us that this is the first Mexican military unit to cross the Rio Grande since 1846 and the Mexican-American War.

BLOCK: Pakistan is sending a million dollars in cash and a half million dollars of goods to this country. Mohammad Sadiq is deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Pakistan. He says his country is also planning a longer-term relief effort.

Mr. MOHAMMAD SADIQ (Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Pakistan): Our focus is mostly on people of Pakistani origin, but we are helping other people also without any problem. We have more than 500 families at the moment registered with either the embassy or one of our consulates. The embassy has announced the establishment of a Katrina response task force.

BLOCK: Why did Pakistan feel the need to help with this disaster?

Mr. SADIQ: Well, we believe that it's the worst national disaster which this country's faced, and this country was always there when we needed help and assistance. Now people on the Gulf Coast need assistance and help. It's basically a token contribution, of course, not a very big amount, but it's more of a sentiment, you know, behind this contribution.

BLOCK: I'm curious also if you could explain just a little bit. If you open the newspapers in Pakistan, how is this story being covered back home?

Mr. SADIQ: Mostly you see the same pictures which you see here. They understand the problems involved with that, the sufferings involved with that. And in many ways, they are very sympathetic when something like this happens anywhere in the world.

BLOCK: Mr. Sadiq, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. SADIQ: All right. Thank you.

BLOCK: Mohammad Sadiq is Pakistan's deputy chief of mission in Washington.

SIEGEL: Of course, getting used to be a foreign aid recipient also means getting accustomed to a certain measure of frustration. Sweden, for example, is eager to be generous, but they haven't yet gotten approval to deliver the goods.

Mr. CLAES THORSON (Press Counselor, Embassy of Sweden): I am Claes Thorson, the press counselor of the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, DC.

SIEGEL: And Sweden has made an offer of aid to the United States because of Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. THORSON: Yes. We offer water purification equipment, and then we offer cellular systems to make the mobile telephones work in the area.

SIEGEL: Has the gift been accepted by the United States?

Mr. THORSON: Well, our only problem is to get the equipment over here, and it's prepared to leave for the United States as soon as we get the permission to fly in here. But up till now, the State Department says that our request is suspended until further notice.

SIEGEL: When did you request permission to fly in the material?

Mr. THORSON: Well, the Swedish government made its decision on Friday last week, and immediately after that, we made our first request to fly into the States. And it's, of course, a little bit frustrating not to be able to deliver it when we have it over there.

On the other hand, you should remember that we had a dramatic experience in the end of 2004 with the tsunami when we lost 500 Swedes spending their Christmas holiday in Thailand. We got a lot of help from the countries, from Thailand and the countries in the area, the Swedes who were there and survived. And we also noticed the forceful American effort to help. And I think we remember things like that.

SIEGEL: Well, Claes Thorson, thank you very much for talking with us today.

Mr. THORSON: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's Claes Thorson of the Swedish Embassy in Washington.

BLOCK: We also heard from Mohammad Sadiq of the Pakistani Embassy and Canada's Ambassador Frank McKenna about their country's efforts to help the US recover from Hurricane Katrina.

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