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Swiss aid ready to be sent to Katrina victims

Thousands of evacuees have sought refuge in shelters

(Keystone)

In response to a request from the United States for aid, the Swiss authorities say they are ready to send 50 tons of humanitarian supplies to the hurricane zone.

Eight days after the storm devastated US Gulf Coast states, an emergency shipment and specialised personnel have been organised by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

SDC spokesman Andreas Stauffer told swissinfo that the aid includes bedding, hygiene sets and tarpaulin and plastic sheeting.

Two logisticians will accompany the goods to the US to coordinate their distribution.

As part of the assistance package, four doctors and two water specialists will also be made available to the World Health Organization.

Daniel Wendell of the US embassy in Bern told swissinfo that a working group had been set up over the weekend to liaise with the Swiss authorities.

"We are incredibly grateful for all the help," said Wendell.

"The Swiss aid is ready to be transported and we are awaiting final logistical arrangements to receive the goods at the other end," he added.

European support

Twenty-three European countries have offered help to the US with material ranging from financial assistance to ready-to-eat meals, blankets, tents and disinfectant supplies.

Britain is sending 500,000 military ration packs to areas hit by the hurricane. Germany has already sent 25 tons of food rations while Denmark is providing water purification units.

The European Commission has said that some of the humanitatian aid intended for the hurricane victims has been delayed due to transport and logistical problems in the US.

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and US Gulf Coast states, drawing support pledges from rich and poor countries around the world. About 600 Swiss live in the southern region worst hit.

More than a million people may have been driven from their homes – many perhaps permanently – with hundreds of thousands of evacuees taking refuge in shelters, hotels and private homes across the country.

Draining the floodwaters is expected to take weeks, leaving behind a layer of toxic sludge and bodies. The mayor of New Orleans has said "it wouldn't be unreasonable" for the city's death toll to reach 10,000.

Meanwhile Daniel Wendell urged the Swiss public not to send donations to the US embassy in Bern directly but to use its website to access agencies which are raising money for disaster relief.

swissinfo, Clare O'Dea

Key facts

Some 60 countries have offered to help the hurricane aid effort.
Switzerland is sending 50 tons of emergency supplies and disaster experts.
More than a million people may have been driven from their homes.

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