WASHINGTON – In an accelerating drive, more than 50 countries have pledged money or other assistance to help Americans recover from Hurricane Katrina.
Cuba and Venezuela have offered to help despite differences with Washington. Oil giant Saudi Arabia and small countries like Sri Lanka and Dominica are among the nations making pledges.
“I hope that will remind Americans that we are all part of the same community,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday as offers kept pouring in.
None has been turned down, Rice said at a news conference, disputing a report from Moscow that a Russian offer had been rejected. However, she said some offers were being taken up immediately and others “somewhat later,” depending on the needs on the ground.
Cuban President Fidel Castro said he hoped an offer made Tuesday to send 1,100 Cuban doctors would be accepted “immediately so as not to lose another minute.”
In her news conference, Rice singled out Sri Lanka for praise for making a contribution even as it struggles to recover from the tsunami and earthquake disaster of last December.
And she said contributions from poor countries were being accepted because “it is very valuable for people being able to give to each other and to be able to do so without a sense of means.”
Australia announced a donation of $8 million to the American Red Cross.
France, “determined to show its solidarity with the United States,” offered a range of aircraft and two ships, with helicopters and planes capable of airlifting tons of supplies, a disaster unit with 20 soldiers, a civil defense detachment of 35 people and an airborne emergency unit, the French Embassy said.
Canada is loading three warships and a coast guard vessel in Halifax with emergency supplies and food, and will dispatch them to Louisiana next Tuesday, Dan McTeague, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew, said in an interview.
Up to 1,000 divers, engineers and reconstruction experts will be aboard, McTeague said.
Japan said it would contribute $200,000 to the American Red Cross for its relief operations. Upon request, Japan is prepared to provide up to $300,000 worth of tents, blankets, power generators, portable water tanks and other equipment, the Japanese Embassy said.