United Nations – Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) told President Bush on Friday that a U.N. task force was already at work in anticipation of U.S. requests for assistance and expertise in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (search).
At its first meeting, the task force determined that U.N. agencies are ready to provide to provide water storage tanks, water purification tablets, high energy biscuits, generators, planes, tents and other emergency supplies as well as experienced staff members, said U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (search) known as OCHA, which is chairing the task force, also sent out an alert to U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams which are trained to evaluate needs and coordinate aid during natural disasters, she said.
There are over 100 of these highly trained experts who specialize on a wide range of issues from flooding to earthquakes and health crises. Five teams helped in the Indian Ocean area with last December's tsunami (search).
Annan issued a statement Thursday offering the United States "any assistance that the United Nations can give," saying it could "supplement the American response with supplies from other countries, or with experience we have gained in other relief operations."
On Friday morning, Annan spoke to Bush "and expressed his heartfelt sympathy with the victims and reiterated his offer of U.N. assistance," Okabe said.
"We don't have money as the U.N., but we'll come with some expertise and experience," Annan told reporters in Stockholm soon after he arrived from New York on Friday for a private visit.
"We also believe that we may be able to share our experience in dealing with major crises around the world," Annan said. "So I would urge all countries and any group that can help to assist."