Wien, 2. September 2005 Press release

Plassnik: Austrian presence in Houston further increased

02.09.2005

The Ministries for Foreign Affairs, the Interior and Defence send officials

Vienna, 2 September 2005 - "A further consular officer from the embassy in Washington and a member of the staff of the Austrian military attaché in Washington have been dispatched to Houston. The four-strong Red Cross crisis intervention team will be arriving in Houston this afternoon local time, bringing to seven the total number of Austrian officials there looking after their compatriots who have been caught up in the hurricane and its disastrous aftermath," said Foreign Minister Plassnik on Friday. Other members of Austrian diplomatic missions in the United States could be mobilised at any time and all missions in the USA are on increased standby alert.

Moreover, two officials from the Ministry of the Interior will also set off from Vienna for Texas tomorrow, where they will establish contact with local security authorities with a view to helping Austrians in need.

The second consular officer from the Washington embassy will assist and share the work of the Austrian Consul General, who has been working in Houston for 60 hours already. He has been able to provide assistance to nine Austrians there to date and is also in telephone contact with other Austrians awaiting evacuation in New Orleans. They are well under the circumstances.

The Austrian helpers are using the office infrastructure of the Honorary Consulate in Houston. Immediately after his arrival, the Austrian General Consul, together with German and British officials, also established a meeting and information point for Austrians and other EU citizens at the stadium in Houston, which serves as a reception camp for those evacuated from New Orleans. Since this stadium cannot take in any more evacuees, efforts are being made to set up a further meeting and information point. Consul General Martin Krämer has also left his contact details at a number of emergency locations where evacuees are being temporarily accommodated, in case any Austrians arrive there.

One of the tasks of the representative of the Ministry of Defence will be to ensure smooth coordination of Austrian relief efforts with the American military and National Guard in the disaster area.

The Red Cross crisis intervention team will specifically concentrate on offering psychological support by telephone where needed to Austrians awaiting evacuation in New Orleans. Providing support and assistance to them is being given priority in the extremely difficult and trying conditions that prevail there.

Plassnik: "I fully understand the growing frustration of relatives in view of the difficult situation of the Austrians who are still in New Orleans. It is not possible, however, for Austria or the EU to help with the evacuation of EU citizens; this is something that only the USA can do. In conjunction with other EU countries, Austria is doing its utmost through diplomatic channels to urge the US authorities to give priority to the evacuation of EU citizens."