09/02/2005, 00.00
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World to help US after hurricane Katrina

Japan pledges US$ 500,000 to help hurricane victims. Catholic Church is also mobilising support and help.

New Orleans (AsiaNews/Agencies) – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the world community to offer assistance to the United States after Hurricane Katrina left a trail of death and destruction across the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"The damage is far worse than any of us imagined at first," Mr Annan said in a statement yesterday.

Mr Annan pledged the United Nations will work with any country or agency to support the US administration, the American Red Cross and other US relief organisations "who have been our partners in the past".

"The American people who have always been the most generous in responding to disasters in other parts of the world have now themselves suffered a grievous blow," he added.

Four days after the hurricane, the emergency situation in New Orleans is getting worse. In their thousands, people are waiting for rescue as sanitary conditions rapidly deteriorate and proper food and water become increasingly scarce. At the same time, stranded residents are forced to endure lawless violence.

US media report fires and explosions in downtown New Orleans and in the city's south-western neighbourhoods; looting is taking place in abandoned homes and businesses.

Officials have confirmed that the storm killed thousands of people.

The Japanese government is pledging US$ 500,000 in emergency aid to Katrina victims. It is donating US$ 200,000 to the American Red Cross and up to 0,000 in tents, blankets and power generators if it receives requests.

Japanese automobile makers, whose vehicles are popular in the US, said they will help. Toyota is pledging up to US$ 5,000,000, Nissan is offering US$ 500,000, plus 50 trucks, whilst Honda stated that it was sending power generators.

The US Catholic Church is also preparing to provide assistance. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced a nationwide collection to be taken up for victims of the disaster.

In a message sent to all 195 US diocesan bishops, chairman Mgr William Skylstad urged bishops to help in "fraternal support to our brother bishops at this tragic time."

Mgr Alfred Hughes, Archbishop of New Orleans, and Mgr Robert W. Muench, Archbishop of Baton Rouge, spent Wednesday visiting Louisiana's packed makeshift shelters.

"In the midst of this disaster", Archbishop Muench said, "we are seeing a great deal of goodness that people are demonstrating to their neighbour and a great deal of care in that we see the work of God to have a neighbourly response to one another."

Caritas Internationalis yesterday offered a special mass for the victims of Hurricane Katrina at its headquarters in Vatican City.

In a letter on 31 August to the three Caritas member organisations in the United States—Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development—Caritas president, Denis Viénot, noted that because they are already living at the margins of society, "as is usual in any disaster, it was the poor who could not flee easily who suffered most loss of life"

Pope Benedict CVI said he was "deeply saddened" by the natural disaster. In his August 31 telegram, the Holy Father commended "the deceased to the loving mercy of almighty God, and upon their grieving families he invoke[d] divine blessings of strength and consolation".

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