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World aid offers pour in

State Department: Nobody has been told 'no thanks'

From CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel and Producer Elise Labott


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Disaster Relief

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Offers of aid and assistance from around the world for victims of Hurricane Katrina continue to pour into the U.S. State Department.

So far 94 countries and international organizations have offered aid, according to a State Department spokesman Tuesday.

A State Department task force has been working since last week to coordinate offers of foreign aid with U.S. agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Some of the aid is already being put to use. MREs (meals ready-to-eat) from Germany and Italy are being distributed and medical assistance from Italy is being accepted. Planes and helicopters from Canada and Singapore are being used to transport evacuees. Emergency supplies from Britain, Japan and Mexico also are being delivered.

Canada is also sending three naval ships and a Coast guard vessel packed with supplies and 1,000 military personnel to the disaster area.

The United States is also awaiting the arrival of two Greek cruise ships to house evacuees.

Spain is sending two Hercules cargo planes with $437,000 worth of relief supplies, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The first of the two planes will carry 6,000 rations of emergency food, and the second plane will carry a water purification plant, cleaning gear, first aid and sanitary equipment, field hospital tents and cots, electrical generators and blankets.

The planes will depart Wednesday afternoon from an air force base near Madrid and will land at a U.S. air base at Little Rock, Arkansas.

Much of the money being donated by foreign governments is expected to be used for recovery efforts.

Eventually, the United States will need help with forensics once bodies are recovered, the official said.

A State Department official said there were "absolutely no political considerations" being taken into account, and that the U.S. government "is not turning anything down."

But he acknowledged getting the aid through entailed "a tedious process of matching offers with specific needs."

"Nobody has been told 'no thanks.' The problem is what to send to which location," the official said. (List of international contributions)

The official said the United States does not want a repeat of problems with some aid sent to tsunami victims, when the countries did not have the capacity to handle it.

Although Cuban President Fidel Castro has said through the media he is willing to send more than 1,000 doctors to treat victims of the hurricane, the State Department official said no official offer has come in from the Cuban government. (Full story)

"Fidel grandstanding on a tarmac with his doctors in front of a camera is not considered a legitimate offer of U.S. assistance," the official said.

"There has been zero communication from anyone in the Cuban government offering anything specific. The Cuban government has our number if it really wants to help."

The United States has accepted aid from another leader with whom it has had strained relations, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who offered $1 million from Citgo, Venezuela's state-run oil corporation.

Another offer being made by Venezuela to supply search-and-rescue assistance has been made directly to the state government in Louisiana.

The official said the United States believed there was now "less of a critical need in terms of medical treatment" for hurricane victims, and "more of a need in terms of getting people housing, shelter and having their basic material needs met."

International governments are also concerned about their own nationals who are still among the missing.

State Department officials say there are 700 to 800 outstanding inquiries from foreign governments about foreign nationals who have not yet been located. That number has been whittled down from 2,500 to 3,000, they said.

Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman contributed to this story

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