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Washington Post: US Did Not Accept Most Katrina Aid Offers

The Washington Post newspaper says the United States accepted a fraction of the foreign aid offered for disaster victims and reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina, one of the costliest and deadliest storms in U.S. history. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, killing more than 1,800 people and wreaking hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage along the southern U.S. Gulf Coast.

The Washington Post reports that in the wake of the storm, U.S. allies offered $454 million in cash and $400 million worth of oil that was to be sold for cash.

The newspaper says U.S. officials have already acknowledged they were not prepared to coordinate and distribute foreign aid. The front-page article says only about half of the $126 million actually received has been put to use, while the rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

Meanwhile, it also details examples of how, at the time, the U.S. government declined, delayed or wasted valuable supplies and services, such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships for temporary housing, because it could not handle them.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked about the Washington Post report on the ABC television program This Week.

"The fact is, we received a lot of very generous offers from people at the time of Katrina," she said. "It was a new circumstance. The United States is frankly not accustomed to receiving large-scale foreign assistance offers."

She said the U.S. government sometimes directed would-be donors to private concerns, such as the Red Cross or a relief effort spearheaded by former Presidents Bush and Clinton, as, in her words, the "most efficacious way" to get aid to the affected regions.

At the same time, she indicated that the U.S. government has been using whatever foreign aid it has for a reconstruction effort that is ongoing.

"But we used a lot of the aid," said Condoleezza Rice. "Some of it could not be used. Some of it was in-kind in ways that the United States could not use it. But a lot of it was used and a lot of it is still being used to help the victims."

President Bush was widely criticized for the government's poor response to Hurricane Katrina. In March, he made his 14th visit to areas along the U.S. Gulf Coast ravaged by the storm and reassured residents he is committed to helping them rebuild their lives.

Congress has approved $110 billion of U.S. government relief aid for Katrina victims.