Sat, Sep 17, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Unimaginable now routine as foreign supplies get sorted


Baby food from Israel. Blankets from Egypt and India. Tents from Russia. UNICEF school supplies sent via Denmark. Generators from China. Rice from Thailand. Bottled water and detergent from Tunisia.

The Little Rock Air Force Base has become the US clearinghouse for an extraordinary international outpouring of relief supplies for Hurricane Katrina's victims.

The air base presents a once-unimaginable spectacle: the richest, most powerful country in the world receiving foreign aid.

The relief supplies are flown into Jacksonville by the various countries. From there, the goods are unloaded by Air Force personnel, catalogued, warehoused and then dispatched by tractor-trailer to the places along the battered Gulf Coast that need them. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decides what goes where and when.

The work is being coordinated by Chris Weeks, a logistics expert at DHL International, which was hired by the US government.

Six months ago, Weeks was in Sri Lanka to assist after the Asian tsunami.

Sri Lanka and Little Rock "are definitely different, but the climate is not that different, the products coming in are not that different, and some of the logistical issues are really quite similar," Weeks said.

On a recent day, an Israeli cargo jet sat bracketed by Egyptian and Russian planes, all unloading hundreds of tonnes of food rations, baby formula, tents and other items. Flights were scheduled to arrive this week from Peru, Finland, Romania, Chile, South Korea, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Greece.

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