WASHINGTON, Sept 1: The United States, reeling from the death and destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, will accept any offers of aid from abroad, the White House said on Thursday.
“We are open to all offers of assistance from other nations, and I would expect we would take people up on offers of assistance when it’s necessary,” said spokesman Scott McClellan.
But asked whether this was a request for foreign aid, McClellan sharply replied: “No.”
US President George W. Bush has designated his father, former president George Bush, and his predecessor, former president Bill Clinton, to spearhead private fundraising efforts on behalf of Katrina’s victims as they did for Asian countries battered by last year’s tsunami.
“This is similar to the effort they led with the tsunami relief, where they helped to raise more than one billion in an unprecedented effort to help people in that region,” said McClellan.
ORLEANS MAYOR SENDS SOS: New Orleans’ mayor issued an urgent plea for relief of his flooded city on Thursday as gunshots and looting hampered the evacuation of desperate crowds trying to escape Hurricane Katrina’s destruction.
“This is a desperate SOS,” Mayor Ray Nagin said in a statement read by CNN. Some of the thousands of hungry, thirsty storm survivors outside the city’s convention centre chanted similar pleas.
“Right now we are out of resources at the convention centre and don’t anticipate enough buses. Currently the convention centre is unsanitary and unsafe and we are running out of supplies for 15,000 to 25,000 people,” Nagin said.
Congress was expected to cut short its summer break to pass emergency financial aid for hurricane victims, according to congressional aides who said an initial package could be around $10 billion.
Shell-shocked New Orleans officials tried to clamp down on looting in the historic jazz city reduced to a swampy ruin by Monday’s storm. Bodies floated in the streets, attackers armed with axes stripped hospitals of medicine and authorities said they could still only guess at how many people had died.
“We don’t have numbers. It could be in the hundreds, or the thousands,” US Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said of the statewide death toll. “I think it’s going to be shocking.”
Federal disaster declarations covered 90,000 square miles along the US Gulf Coast, an area roughly the size of Great Britain. As many as 400,000 people had been forced to leave their homes.
Violence broke out in pockets of New Orleans among the wandering crowds desperate to escape the flooded city and hellish 32 C temperatures.—AFP/Reuters