Europe’s response to the United States’ official request for assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has been swift. Coordinators have been working together for several days already, so when the word came on Sunday, dispatch was swift. What the Americans are short of includes first aid kits, water trucks, and prepared meals. Medics, civil engineers and divers headed for the airports, Belgians and French among the first.
Italy’s team said it was going to check if material sent by Rome was well-used in the confusion. A European Commission spokeswoman said Brussels was coordinating help from the EU members: “We also received with the request a particular list of items that the United States requested from us, and that list went by our Monitoring and Information centre of civil protection mechanism to the Member States in order to see which of the Member States will be able to respond to a particular request.” Among the donations from Britain are half a million military food ration packs. Germany sent two army Airbuses with food over the weekend. Camping beds were promised by Luxembourg, dyke inspectors by the Netherlands. Some non-EU countries had not received an answer from Washington; embargoed Cuba offered more than 1,000 doctors.