Atlanta’s consular corps was “on stand-by” at the end of last week as Hurricane Rita approached the Gulf Coast. The consulates had leapt into action in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Representatives of the Canadian, French, German and Mexican consulates general told GlobalAtlanta that they were in close contact with their Texas-based counterparts.
Germany’s Consul General Hans-Joerg Brunner returned to his office in Atlanta Friday after touring the destruction caused by Katrina in Alabama and Mississippi.
“We are on stand-by,” he told GlobalAtlanta concerning Rita. “It is difficult to predict what will happen, but we’ll see if we can be of any help in the aftermath.”
In anticipation of devastation to be caused by Rita, Canada’s Atlanta consulate general sent Christine Pappas, consul and program manager for public affairs, to Dallas where she is to assist its consulate there.
Meanwhile, the Mexican consulate general in Atlanta is to be open extra hours to serve Katrina’s victims who still are coming here from Alabama and Mississippi. Like the other consulates that have counterparts in Texas, it is staying in touch with those offices in case further assistance is needed.
In response to the devastation caused by Katrina, representatives of the consulates followed up on the initiatives of their Washington embassies, in some cases working with foreign-based companies with operations in the region and eventually with a variety of U.S. and local state agencies.
There were no fatalities of foreign nationals reported to GlobalAtlanta during its survey of the 19 consulates general located here.
Although the extent of the devastation wasn’t apparent when the hurricane first hit the Gulf of Mexico coast on Monday, Aug. 29, by the following day the coordinating efforts at several of the consulates were in full swing.
Mr. Brunner said that the German consulate had set up satellite offices in Birmingham, Ala., and Jackson, Miss., by Saturday, Sept. 3, to receive evacuating Germans and other Europeans.
He said that access to satellite telephones was the most valuable service consular personnel were able to provide in their relief efforts.
The German government also sent a mobile container and tent hospital from Germany that has been transported around Mississippi to areas in need of medical services.
The European consulates assisted each other in their efforts to distribute aid and locate foreign nationals. Personnel from both the British and French consulates were sent to cities in the area to locate their foreign nationals and help oversee the distribution of emergency supplies.
According to Malcolm McKechnie, Canada’s consul general, the Vancouver Urban Rescue team from Vancouver, British Columbia, arrived in New Orleans within 24 hours after the hurricane hit.
He also pointed to the efforts of the Canadian Red Cross and Air Canada. Additionally, he said four Canadian warships with 1,000 troops were dispatched to the Gulf of Mexico, helping with the clean up and reconstruction.
Four members of the Canadian consulate general were sent to Jackson, Miss., where they met with state agency representatives to locate displaced Canadians and assess the area’s needs.
The Japanese consulate general in Atlanta, which serves Alabama but not Louisiana or Mississippi, coordinated the inquiries for its foreign nationals. The consulate reported Japanese individuals and corporations had made many private donations for the rescue effort. (See article, “Foreign Firms Aid Hurricane Victims”.)
Personnel from Mexico’s consulate manned a temporary office in Mobile, Ala., where they visited local shelters, agencies and churches in search of displaced Mexicans. They also have been working with federal and local agencies to make sure the workers rights of Mexicans contracted to help with the clean-up are guaranteed.
The following countries have fulltime consulates based in Atlanta: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Greece, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.