Vienna, 5 September 2005 - As soon as the extent of the hurricane disaster in the south of the USA became known, the Austrian Federal Government promptly offered assistance to the US Government in managing this crisis situation. On 4 September an official request for assistance was received by the Federal Alarm Centre in Vienna via the EU Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).
The disaster and civil protection department of the Federal Ministry of the Interior coordinates offers of assistance and actual measures from Austria. The request for tarpaulins, camp beds, hygiene articles, baby food, ready-to-eat meals and water pumps was passed on to all national warning centres, rescue and aid organisations and ministries with the appeal for support.
The Upper Austria provincial fire brigade has offered to provide ten water pumps, 500 tarpaulins and 300 camp beds; the province of Vorarlberg is willing to dispatch its experienced support unit to the USA; the Red Cross has provided a four-strong crisis intervention team; and the professional fire brigade in Vienna has offered to send a liaison officer trained in disaster relief coordination to the region.
The offers of assistance have been communicated by the Ministry of the Interior to the MIC in Brussels, and the EU will now clarify with the US authorities exactly what kind of aid is required.
In the meantime, care of the Austrians in the region affected by the hurricane and its aftermath is continuing flat out. The nine-strong team of Austrian aid workers, consisting of members of the Ministries for Foreign Affairs, the Interior and Defence and representatives of the Red Cross, has established contact and assisted around 100 compatriots to date. It has provided emergency financial aid and travel documents as well as twelve tickets for homeward flights to Austria and has also been helpful in arranging hotel accommodation, local transport and changes in reservations. The Austrian crisis team has been involved in the evacuation of 48 Austrians, who have also been offered psychological support. There were around 300 Austrians in the affected area at the time of the disaster, two of whom have still not been contacted.
The successful evacuation of Austrian citizens within a few days after the disaster is attributable in particular to the good cooperation within the team and with EU partners and the competent American authorities in Washington and in the disaster area.
Department of Press and Information
of the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Tel.: (++43-5) 01150-3262
Colonel Rudolf GOLLIA
Federal Ministry of the Interior
Department for Media and Public Information
Tel.: +43-1 53126-2490