Relief Efforts In Full Swing Coast To Coast
Undated (AP) _ Americans swiftly mobilized to send money, food, clothing, medical supplies and rescue dogs halfway around the world to earthquake-shattered Soviet Armenia. One governor even offered to send his state’s National Guard.
″I just cannot believe the response we are getting,″ Sonia Tanielian of the Armenian Church of Seattle said Friday.
A government-chartered jetliner filled with medical supplies and canine search teams left for the Soviet Union early today after Soviet officials announced they welcomed U.S. assistance. It was the first such large-scale effort since World War II’s Lend Lease program.
In Miami, an international arms dealer said he was loading three planes with relief supplies. And a New England group was looking for a plane to carry the goods it’s collecting.
Relief efforts were being mounted not only by relief organizations such as the American Red Cross and American-Armenian groups, but by individuals touched by the tragedy in the southwestern Soviet Republic of Armenia.
Two businessmen in Muncie, Ind., arranged for a clothing drop and a bank account for donations.
″It might mean more to the earthquake victims that people who don’t have direct contact with them are willing to do this,″ said marketing executive P.J. Marshall.
A New Hampshire man of Armenian descent began collecting donations Friday, urging people to forgo a Christmas gift this year and send the money to the earthquake victims.
″It’s hard, certainly for me, to look forward to Christmas in any way this year knowing what’s happening over there,″ said Abe Dadian, of Laconia, whose parents emigrated from Armenia.
The Soviet Embassy in Washington said it has been overwhelmed with telephone calls and by people who are ″walking up to the doors of the embassy with checks and money orders.″
Rhode Island’s Gov. Edward DiPrete offered to send his state’s National Guard to Armenia if President Reagan approves. ″It’s just a willingness to help in whatever way possible,″ DiPrete said.
Cindy Stuart, a spokeswoman for the Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, said the U.S. plane would carry eight trained dogs, handlers, and support personnel. The dogs will be used to help find survivors in quake rubble.
A cargo hangar at Boston’s Logan International Airport was being used as a collection point for donated clothing, blankets and food. John Megerdichian of the Armenian Assembly of New England in Watertown, Mass., said the group was looking for a plane to take the donations to Armenia.
In Los Angeles, leaders of the largest Armenian community outside the Soviet Union met Friday to unify relief efforts. About 300,000 people of Armenian descent live in California, mostly in Southern California.
″We are stricken with grief, but at the same time we are organizing ourselves to be as much help as we can to our kin in Armenia,″ said Archbishop Datev Sarkissian, prelate for the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.
Los Angeles TV station KSCI planned a telethon between midnight tonight and 6 a.m. Sunday, to be broadcast throughout Southern California and in Armenian communities nationwide, officials said.
Boston-based Oxfam America donated $20,000 for temporary shelter and medical supplies, its first relief effort in an industrialized nation and in the Soviet Union, officials said.
In Miami, Sarkis Soghanalian, owner of Pan-Aviation Inc., said he was preparing to fly three Boeing 707s loaded with relief supplies donated by south Florida’s community of about 2,000 Armenians.
Soghanalian, a Lebanese national of Armenian descent who lives in Miami, faces charges of trying to smuggle 103 combat helicopters to Iraq.
In Columbus, Ohio, state Insurance Director George Fabe announced a drive to raise at least $500,000 for medical aid from insurance companies.
″The role of insurance is to step in when tragedy strikes,″ Fabe said in a statement announcing the plan.
Pennsylvania’s Gov. Robert P. Casey, in telegrams to Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, said volunteers from a coalition of public-service groups were ready to go to Armenia to aid in the recovery effort.
At Armenian organizations in New Jersey, phones have been ringing nearly non-stop with offers of contributions.
″We’re getting a broad response, not just from Armenians,″ said Lori Atamian with the 7,000 member Armenian General Benevolent Union in New Jersey.
The union’s Chicago chapter was also collecting donations.
″We’ve had people just walking in and making donations - from $3 to $1,000 - right out of their pockets,″ said chapter official Peter Klujian.