Bush Rejects French Offer of Medical Aid, Water Filters
Bloomberg | September 2, 2005
|Germany and France, the two leading European opponents of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, have offered aid to the U.S. to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which probably killed thousands of people in four Gulf coast states.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany is ready to provide help including airlift capacities, vaccination, water purification, medical supplies and pumping services. The aid is available in the short term and can be brought to the U.S. on German air force and chartered planes, Schroeder said. The U.S. government has agreed to receive the help in principle, he said.
``The pictures that we see on television are hard to bear,'' Schroeder told reporters today at the Chancellery in Berlin. ``It is not only our historical duty because we've received unlimited help from the American people after the war, but it also goes without saying'' that Germany will try to help as much as it can.
France has 35 disaster relief workers in the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe ready to leave for the U.S. the minute they are asked, Denis Simonneau, deputy spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, said at a press briefing today. A 60-strong disaster relief team in mainland France could be sent ``very quickly,'' he said.
Simonneau said France has offered 600 tents, 1000 camp beds, 60 generators, and three portable water treatment plants that are stockpiled in Martinique. In addition two planes, two naval ships and a hospital ship are standing ready in the Caribbean, he said.
``We have lots of experience with hurricanes in Martinique and Guadeloupe,'' French ambassador to the U.S. Jean-David Levitte said at a press lunch in Paris yesterday. ``President (Jacques) Chirac has made it clear that France will provide whatever help is requested.''
Nathalie Loiseau, a spokeswoman at the French embassy in Washington, said France made its offer yesterday and is awaiting a response. ``We weren't expecting a response within hours,'' Loiseau said. ``There's an inter-agency committee that meets every day and they will examine the offers and decide which ones conform to what they need and what the U.S. have the means to accept.''
The disaster may be the biggest in the U.S. since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake when as many as 6,000 died. It may cost $50 billion, Standard & Poor's said, making Katrina the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history.
Some 15,000 to 20,000 people are stranded without help around New Orleans, a city of 500,000 before the disaster struck. The city's mayor Ray Nagin issued a ``desperate S.O.S.,'' telling Cable News Network ``people are desperate and they are trying to find food and water.''
The U.S. Senate yesterday approved $10.5 billion in disaster relief and as many as 15,000 security officers are headed for the city, which has seen looting and rape as public order collapsed.
The hurricane wreaked havoc throughout Louisiana and Mississippi as well as Alabama and Western Florida. Television channels showed crowds at the New Orleans convention center, with people pleading for food, water and medicine.