09/07/2005, 00.00
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Post-Tsunami Asia reaches out to help the USA

From the world's poorest countries come funds and above all experience in tackling natural disasters. Volunteers engaged in post-Tsunami work in Sri Lanka warn: solidarity among victims is vital.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Afghanistan, Thailand and Bangladesh were among the latest Asian nations to offer economic and expert help to the United States to deal with havoc wrought by Hurricane Katrina.  The offer comes despite the difficulties and poverty facing these Asian countries.

Donations promised by the Asians may seem like crumbs in comparison with the large sums of money sent by Europe, but they come from nations which have little to give. Only now are some starting to recover from the December 2004 Tsunami tragedy.

Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world – forced to deal with floods every year when the monsoon season sets in – pledged one million dollars for victims of Katrina and offered to send its experts on the scene of the disaster. A spokesman for Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, said the aid from Bangladesh was a "sign of friendship and solidarity".

Kantathi Suphamongkon, Thailand's foreign affairs minister said his country would send 60 doctors and nurses and a consignment of rice for victims of Katrina. He recalled the help given by the USA when the Tsunami struck, killing around 230,000 people in 11 countries in Southeast Asia; 8,000 died in Thailand alone.

Even Sri Lanka, still struggling with the aftermath of the Tsunami, declared it will send 25,000 dollars. No less than 40,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka in December.

Afghanistan, prostrated by 20 years of war, has promised 100,000 dollars in aid.

Pakistan, a key ally of the USA in the international war on terror, offered to send doctors and paramedical personnel. A spokesman for the Pakistani foreign affairs ministry said Washington "expressed its appreciation" for the gesture. There were around 2,700 Pakistanis or American-Pakistanis in the areas hit by Katrina. The country's ambassador in Washington is working with the American authorities to deliver aid.

Singapore has already made a flight of Chinook helicopters available for rescue operations in New Orleans. Japan said it wants to send 500,000 dollars for victims of the hurricane and added that it is ready to send experts and emergency aid if necessary.

Last weekend, South Korea offered 30 million dollars while China promised five million.

The official death toll of victims of the hurricane which ravaged the south of the USA is 83 but local authorities have warned that "it is not unreasonable to consider that there may be 10,000 victims".

From Sri Lanka, volunteers involved in post-tsunami aid warned:  to ensure the death toll does not rise higher, it is vital that anybody who can help does so. Rohini Nanayakkara, deputy head of TAFREN, the country's tsunami reconstruction body recalled that: "People collected foodstuffs, clothing and everything was rushed down to those areas to be delivered to the people. The solidarity of people was very successful."

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