Int'l community pledges aid to hurricane-stricken US states

The international community on Sunday pledged to offer assistance to the United States after Hurricane Katrina swept the US states of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi last week.

Katrina made its first landfall on the United States on Aug. 25, and swept the US Gulf Coast region on Aug. 29, causing massive destruction and unprecedented life and property losses. The US government said the overall death toll of the disaster could reach thousands.

Chinese Vice-Minister of Commerce Ma Xiuhong said China will remit 5 million dollars in aid for victims in the United States.

The disaster relief goods China has promised to provide to the United States are basically ready for shipment, said Ma when she visited the US embassy in Beijing.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced that it will offer food supplies to the United States.

"The United States has requested NATO relief support in the form of food supplies. NATO Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center is coordinating responses to this request by allies and NATO partners," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said in a written statement.

Canadian government officials said they would start dispatching 35 divers Sunday to help with the massive rescue effort. One of the divers' tasks would be to inspect levees.

Canada is also planning to send four ships with emergency supplies and disaster specialists next week. It has promised to pump an extra 91,000 barrels per day of crude oil to the United States to help overcome fuel shortages.

Italy started on Sunday sending aid to the hurricane-ravaged areas of the United States around New Orleans, the most affected US city after Hurricane Katrina touched down in the North American country.

A series of C-130 transport planes will fly emergency aid including medicine, tents, blankets, clothing and camp heating for some 15,000 people left homeless.

Also on Sunday, five specialists and a press delegate of the Spanish Red Cross traveled to the United States to support the aid distribution for victims.

Coordinator of the group Inigo Vila said the trip responds to a request by the US Red Cross for the presence of volunteers to coordinate distribution duties in the disaster area.

Mexico is waiting for authorization from the United States to carry out a rescue plan in New Orleans, the local press reported.

The Mexican government intended to send ships, helicopters, vehicles, food and support equipment that could be taken there by the armed forces as soon as the US government gives the green light to its plan.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Venezuela will send 1 million barrels of gasoline to the affected areas in the United States.

In Havana, Cuban President Fidel Castro put on display some 1,500 doctors equipped with medical supplies in hopes of persuading the United States to allow them to treat the victims.

Castro, in a televised meeting with the doctors, said the United States had not responded to his offer to send medical workers and 26 tonnes of supplies to the devastated US Gulf Coast.

He first made the offer public during a television presentation on Friday, saying political enmity should be put aside during such a crisis.

South Korea decided to provide 30 million US dollars to help it recover from the deadly hurricane.

The decision was made in a meeting of related government ministers that was presided over by South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan earlier Sunday.

Indonesia's Antara news agency reported that the Indonesian government will send 40 doctors to help the victims.

"We are still waiting for the green light from the US government about when exactly the Indonesian medical workers can depart for the US," Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Alwi Shihab was quoted as saying.

The Nepali government said it has decided to provide 25,000 US dollars as assistance to the United States in line with its tradition of helping friendly countries.

Kuwait's Minister of Energy Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said his country will aid US hurricane victims with 500 million dollars in oil products.

Sheikh Ahmad said in a statement, carried by the official KUNA news agency, that the aid is in the form of oil derivatives and some other humanitarian assistance needed by the victims.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel will send representatives of defense and health ministries to the United States this week to assess assistance needs of hurricane-hit areas.

"The country has stood by us during difficult times and it is our duty to assist it in the areas in which we can help," Sharon said.

In Kabul, the US embassy said Afghanistan will give 100,000 dollars for relief efforts in the United States.

US ambassador Ronald Neumann thanked the Afghan people at a ceremony at which the aid was pledged by the government on behalf of the people.

Iran also offered to send humanitarian aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"The victims have complained about the lack of timely assistance and we are prepared to send our contributions to the people through the Red Crescent," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi.

Source: Xinhua

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