Three Canadian warships and a Coast Guard vessel packed with relief supplies set sail for the hurricane-stricken US city of New Orleans Tuesday.
The ships, which are due to arrive at the US Gulf Coast by the end of the week, are carrying at least 1,000 Canadian Forces personnel as well as water, food and blankets to help in the hurricane Katrina relief effort.
US Ambassador David Wilkins thanked Canada's help saying "human spirit at its best is more forceful than any storm."
Commodore Dean McFadden, who is leading the Canadian task group, said the boats were taking essential supplies from a "first aid and hygiene perspective."
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said aid from Canada likely will continue flowing for weeks.
The air force is also sending three of its Sea King shipborne helicopters and crews for rescue work and transportation.
The Canadian ships will be joining one of the largest peacetime fleets ever assembled as some 35 US Navy, coast guard and civilian vessels now moored off the Louisiana coast to rescue stranded New Orleans residents and to bring food, water and medical help to survivors of the hurricane.
Meanwhile, Canadian officials continue to locate Canadian tourists still stranded in the Gulf Coast.
Dan McTeague, parliamentary secretary for Canadians abroad, said Monday there are now nine Canadians unaccounted for, up from the previous estimate of five on Sunday.
No Canadian deaths have been reported, and McTeague said there do not appear to be any Canadians in the hardest-hit areas.