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Foreign Assistance Begins Flowing to US Hurricane Victims

The State Department says cash and material assistance donated by foreign countries has begun flowing to New Orleans and other parts of the southern United States ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. More than 90 countries and international organizations have offered help.

The United States, which is more accustomed to providing rather than receiving disaster help, has welcomed all the foreign assistance offers and rejected none of them out of hand.

The State Department is working with other federal agencies and local authorities to match the offers with actual needs on the ground and coordinate deliveries of overseas aid, which began late last week.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said helicopters loaned to the United States by Canada and Singapore are already at work in the stricken area, helping to deliver relief supplies that include military rations contributed by among others Germany, Italy, Britain and Mexico.

The spokesman said cash donations from foreign countries, some from Gulf oil states in the hundreds of millions of dollars, are also flowing to relief agencies.

Mr. McCormack said Americans are moved and grateful for what he termed the "tremendous" outpouring of support for those affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

"Over 90 countries and organizations around the world have made offers of assistance to the United States and the American people in our time of need," said Mr. McCormack. "And I think the American people can take great heart from the fact that when we need help, when we need assistance, the world is answering the call."

Spokesman McCormack said decisions on accepting aid offers are being based solely on needs and not political considerations.

Long-time U.S. adversary Cuba has offered to provide more than 1,000 doctors for hurricane relief.

But Mr. McCormack indicated that Cuban medical workers would not be needed because of what he said was a "robust" volunteer response from the U.S. medical community.

The spokesman said Venezuela, another country with which the United States has had difficult relations in recent years, is providing financial aid through Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of its state oil company.

He said Germany will be providing high-capacity pumps to help reduce the floodwaters in New Orleans, while the Netherlands, which like New Orleans is partly below sea level, is sending experts on levee reconstruction.

An interim tally of foreign contributions from the State Department Monday said that Kuwait is providing $400 million worth of oil and another $100 million in cash. There were $100 million contributions from both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The State Department, meanwhile, said it continues to work with governments around the world to locate foreign nationals who were believed to have been in the hurricane area last week and still unaccounted-for.

Officials say the number of such cases remains in the hundreds though this does not necessarily mean they are among hurricane casualties.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday the State Department has set up an operations center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to deal with the issue.

She urged foreign citizens in the impacted area who have not yet done so to call home and to contact their respective embassies or consulates.

More than 30 governments, mainly from Latin America and Europe, had consulates in New Orleans, all of which closed when the city was ordered evacuated.

At least two of those countries, Mexico and France, have opened temporary consulates elsewhere in Louisiana.