Australia sends US$7.6 million to Katrina areas

Australia will send 10 million Australian dollars (US$7.6 million; Ђ6.1 million) and a team of 20 disaster experts to the United States to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the prime minister said Friday.

"There should not be an assumption that because America is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, this isn't a major challenge and a major crisis," Prime Minister John Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The money will go to the U.S. Red Cross and be spent on "all the sorts of things that are provided to people all around the world when they're suddenly rendered destitute," Howard was quoted as saying by the AP.

On Thursday, Australia announced plans to send two experts but increased the offer after discussions with U.S. authorities about the disaster that has engulfed the Gulf Coast.

"We have been in touch overnight, Australian time, with the Federal Emergency Management Authority, which is the key body in the U.S. coordinating relief, and we have offered a special emergency team of up to 20 experts from Australia which we will send to the U.S. immediately in order to help," Howard said.

A close ally of U.S. President George W. Bush, Howard said it was extraordinary that it might take eight or nine months before people could be moved back into New Orleans.

Howard's administration pledged 1 billion Australian dollars (US$754 million; Ђ618 million) to help Indonesia rebuild after the Dec. 26 tsunami.

He said the donation to the U.S. disaster recovery underscored Australia's close relationship with the United States and was a recognition of Washington's generosity toward other countries stricken by disasters in the past.

"Given the extraordinary generosity of the United States when other countries are in need, and given the very close relationship between Australia and the United States, and given also the scale of the disaster, we believe it is a very valuable gesture and a mark of our concern for the scale of the human misery that has come from this disaster," Howard told reporters in Hobart.

Photo by BBC.

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