Nations Await D.C. Response to Katrina Offers

Many of the nations offering aid to the United States after Hurricane Katrina (search) — including India, South Korea, Japan and Germany — said Wednesday they were still waiting to hear back from Washington on whether their donations had been accepted.

India (search), which regularly suffers flooding unleashed by monsoon rains, has a planeload of supplies waiting but nowhere to send it.

"The plane is parked at the airport here and we are awaiting instructions on where to send the medicines and food items," an External Affairs Ministry (search) official said Wednesday, declining to be identified under government briefing rules.

India said it would give a $5 million check to the American Red Cross on Thursday in Washington. New Delhi also offered to send military medics and water purification equipment.

"The offer to help is on the table. We are awaiting Washington's response," the official said.

Taiwan is waiting to hear from the United States to decide how it wants to spend the $2 million aid offer before it transfers the money, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Michel Lu said.

South Korea has pledged $30 million and initially said it would send about 40 rescue workers and 100 tons of goods such as blankets, diapers, crutches, bunk beds and wheelchairs, to the United States by this weekend.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said Wednesday the delivery will likely be delayed until next week as "preparations are not going well." He declined to elaborate.

Japan said it was in the process of transferring $200,000 to the Red Cross and had offered up to $300,000 in supplies such as tents, blankets, generators and portable water tanks, which are stored in Florida.

But Tokyo is still waiting for Washington to identify which supplies are needed, a Foreign Affairs official said.

German officials say they have offered a wide range of aid, including search dogs, medical teams and even a military hospital ship, and say much of it has been on standby for delivery since Monday.

Still, they have avoided directly criticizing U.S. officials, pointing to the huge logistical task of organizing the emergency response.

"We all have these terrible images before our eyes," Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a speech to parliament Wednesday. "We stand in these days in real solidarity with our friends and above all with the victims."

More than 90 countries have offered assistance to hurricane victims, and "any offers of support that could potentially benefit" them have been accepted, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington.

"There is a process of matching needs with expertise and the donations that have been made," he said.

Russia will send an estimated $760,000 worth of humanitarian aid in three planes scheduled to begin leaving Moscow as early as Wednesday for Arkansas, said Sergei Vlasov, spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. That aid includes 121 tents, 4,000 blankets and 10,000 food packages, he said.

Michael McKinley, an expert in international relations at the Australian National University, said some aid offers were coming from countries that can ill afford to make them, and Washington should turn them down.

Sri Lanka, which was among the hardest hit nations in the Indian Ocean tsunami in December, has already donated $25,000 to the Red Cross. Afghanistan has pledged $100,000 while Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries often plagued by devastating flooding, offered $1 million.

Such offers "can only be political gestures," McKinley said.

"Afghanistan? Give us a break. The place is rubble," he said. "Any money it has should not be sent to the United States.

"It would not surprise me if somebody at the State Department or White House says, 'Thanks for the gesture, but spend it on your own,"' McKinley said.

In past disasters, the international community has pledged millions of dollars but eventually only paid up a fraction of what they offered.

A year after more than $1 billion was promised for the Iranian city of Bam, where 26,000 were killed in a December 2003 earthquake, Tehran said it had received only $17.5 million.

Countries pledging aid to the Katrina disaster appear to be making good on the promises when they can.

The American Red Cross said on its Web site that, as of Sept. 6, it has received $409.2 million in gifts and pledges for the hurricane relief effort. The organization did not say how much of that came from overseas.

In China, a plane carrying 100 tons of tents, bedding and generators for hurricane victims took off Wednesday bound for Little Rock, Ark., said Wang Hanjiang, director of the foreign aid department of the Commerce Ministry.

China also delivered the $5 million donation it promised last week, the Foreign Ministry said.

Australia, one of Washington's staunchest allies, has dispatched three disaster management experts to help their American counterparts by sharing knowledge they gained in Indonesia in the aftermath of the Dec. 26 tsunami.

Singaporean troops who had been on a training mission in Texas have scrambled to Louisiana and are using four CH-47 Chinook helicopters to ferry refugees, rescuers and supplies, the Defense Ministry said.