Asia-Pacific nations help Katrina victims

Asia-Pacific nations, including tsunami-battered Sri Lanka, promised Friday to send money and disaster relief experts to the United States to help deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"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," Australian Prime Minister John Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Australia topped the list of those in the region who pledged aid, with a promise of 10 million Australian dollars (US$7.6 million; Ђ6.1 million) to the American Red Cross, according to the AP.

Howard also announced plans to dispatch a 20-member team of disaster experts to the United States, after Australian officials consulted with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Japan and Singapore, which along with Australia are among Washington's strongest allies in the region, were also quick to promise help.

As reported before, Japan pledged US$500,000 (Ђ403,615) worth of aid, US$200,000 (Ђ161,445) for the Red Cross and US$300,000 (Ђ242,170) in emergency supplies such as tents, blankets and power generators, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

Singapore sent three CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 38 troops based in Grand Prairie, Texas, to Fort Polk, Louisiana, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Some of Asia's poorer nations also offered to help, including some hardest hit by the last December's tsunami that left more than 228,000 people dead or missing in 11 countries.

Sri Lanka, which received substantial U.S. military and other foreign aid after the tsunami killed more than 31,000 and displaced 1 million, on Friday pledged US$25,000 (Ђ20,200) to the American Red Cross.

The government also urged Sri Lankan-born physicians living in the United States to volunteer their services to the relief effort.

In Indonesia, the country worst-hit by the tsunami, and Thailand, which was also battered, top government officials expressed their condolences and said they were still considering how best to offer practical help.

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