U.N. Calls Iran’s Relief Effort Efficient, Impressive With AM-Iran-Quake, Bjt
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ At the headquarters of the Red Crescent Society, Iran’s equivalent of the Red Cross, the sidewalk and lobby are stacked high with donated blankets, clothes, food, stoves and medicine.
Dozens of volunteers sort through the piles, boxing them for shipment to the northwest, where a half-million people have been made homeless as a result of Thursday’s killer earthquake.
″Many people come here to donate goods for the earthquake victims, but then stay for the day to help out,″ Javad Afshar, director of Public Cooperation for the Red Crescent, said Monday.
Iran’s internal relief effort following the quake has been speedy and thorough, a team from the Geneva-based United Nations Disaster Relief Organization said.
The earthquake leveled cities and towns across northern Iran and killed 50,000 people, according to official Iranian estimates. About 200,000 were injured, and countless others were believed beneath tons of debris.
The response ″was large-scale, rapid and efficient,″ the mission said in a report Monday. ″The numbers of relief personnel, ambulances and heavy equipment appeared to be more than adequate for the task.″
It said it was ″most impressed by the relief response.″ Iranian relief officials credited the speed of the relief effort to equipment and experience left over from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and to strong suppport from the Iranian people.
At the Red Crescent, Afshar’s voice was hoarse Monday after what he said were 72 hours of directing volunteers and working three telephones and a walkie-talkie without any sleep.
″But I’m not tired,″ he said. ″There’s an Iranian proverb that says that all people come from one body. If one part is in pain, then the other parts also feel it.″
At the Baghi Allah-Ala’zam military hospital, 144 of the 400 beds were occupied by earthquake victims, most of them evacuated by army helicopter.
″During the Iran-Iraq war we regularly received injured patients by helicopter from the front,″ said Jamshid Narenjkar, director of the hospital, one of about 15 military medical centers in the Tehran area.
″Because of the war, doctors and nurses were ready to help,″ he said.
Narenjkar said about 4,000 victims were hospitalized in Tehran and many others elsewhere.
Meanwhile, international humanitarian aid, from both allies and past enemies, continued to pour into Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, where more than a dozen aircraft from West Germany, Algeria, Cuba, Bangladesh and Pakistan waited to be unloaded.
The Iranian air force was airlifting the aid to the earthquake zone, where road traffic was badly clogged by heavy construction machinery and buses carrying thousands of relief workers.
Ground crews worked in the heat of the tarmac of the airport’s military section as they transfered hundreds of tons of cargo to waiting C-130 Hercules transport planes to fly the supplies to the disaster zone.
Air force officers said their pilots were averaging six to eight flights a day to the mountainous region about 170 miles northwest of the capital.
″Once we reach the area, the supplies are transferred to the helicopters which fly them out to villages so remote they are almost inaccessible by any other means,″ said Lt. Col. Fridoon Zadeh, an air force pilot.
John Tomblin, a U.N. Disaster Relief Organization director, said more than two dozen nations have provided quake aid to Iran. The Islamic Republic News Agency said 26 countries have contributed to the relief operations.
More than 40 German military personnel and medical volunteers waited with their gear Monday for their flight to Rudbar, one of the hardest hit towns on the border between the devastated Zanjan and Gilan provinces.
The German volunteers were to set up a field hospital in the town.
On Sunday, a U.S. cargo plane carrying 84,000 pounds of supplies from AmeriCares, a private U.S. relief organization, unloaded at Mehrabad airport, then flew back.
It was the first American aid to Iran since the rift that followed the rise of Islamic fundamentalists to power 11 years ago.
Iranian officials Monday stressed that they were not rejecting outside help, but did not need large amounts of foreign relief personnel.
″We haven’t asked other countries for help because our people and our government were ready,″ the Red Crescent’s Afshar said.
″But if other countries and Red Cross societies offer to help, we will accept it with thanks.″