U.S. Sends Aid To Volcano-Stricken Regions Of Colombia With AM-Volcano, Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Backing President Reagan’s message that ″our prayers are with you,″ the United States on Friday delivered tents, blankets and rescue helicopters in the first wave of relief to the volcano-stricken regions of Colombia.
Four transport planes with 4,500 blankets and 500 tents and repair kits aboard flew from the U.S. Southern Command in Panama to an air strip 10 miles from the volcano. Also arriving were 12 helicopters to be used in the search for people still alive in the rubble, mud and flood waters.
Reagan wrote to Colombian President Belisario Betancur, saying he was ″stunned to learn of the devastation″ wrought by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. As many as 20,000 people may have died.
″The loss of life and the destruction have caused sorrow to us all,″ Reagan said. ″Our prayers are with you and all those who are working to rescue those who have been affected. Colombia is a great friend and ally of the United States. I want you to know in this hour of need, that we want to work with your government and be of help.″
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said, ″I think our initial response will be in emergency equipment that can be used in order to relieve the immediate suffering, such as tents, helicopters, water purification equipment and other things along those lines.″
In addition to the $1 million in supplies provided in the first 24 hours, the United States sent teams of search and rescue specialists from Dade County, Fla. and Boise, Idaho.
More supplies will be sent after Paul Bell, an expert from the U.S. Agency for International Development, reports from the scene, AID said.
Humberto Serna, deputy chief of mission at the Colombian Embassy, said his government needed three main types of equipment: portable power plants, supplies for orthopedic surgery, and up to 20,000 tents.
Electricity in the volcano area has been knocked out and the tents are needed to house thousands of people whose homes were washed away.
″We need the orthopedic equipment because there are many people with broken bones,″ he added.
The Colombian government had determined there was no special need for U.S. doctors to go to the stricken area, Serna said.
He urged Americans not to send food, clothing or other bulky equipment that might choke the pipeline of urgently needed relief supplies, but said financial contributions were being accepted at a special bank account at the National Bank of Washington, 4340 Connecticut, Ave., N.W., Washington D.C. 20008.
Checks should be made out to the Fund for the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano, he said.
Partners of the Americas, the largest private voluntary organization working with Latin America, said it was conducting a fund-raising drive to meet intermediate- and long-term needs of the victims and communities affected by the volcano. The organization said donations could be sent to the group at 1424 K. St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005.
With long-distance lines to Colombia choked by concerned callers, the embassy said it was accepting calls at 202-387-8338 from Colombians in the United States worried about loved ones at home. There were reports to the State Department that a few Americans might have been in the region, but none of the reports were substantiated, the consular office said.
At the American Red Cross, spokesman Brian Ruberry said officials had received a call from the Colombian Red Cross for 20 portable generators.
Ruberry cautioned Americans against sending food and clothing, suggesting instead that checks earmarked for Colombian volcano relief be sent to American Red Cross chapters.
Ruberry said the Red Cross in Sweden, Switzerland, West Germany, Norway, Denmark and Britain were sending 5,000 tents.
AID said the following private groups were among those involved in the relief efforts: Catholic Relief, Sister Cities, Partners of the Americas, World Vision Relief Organization, Save the Children Federation, World Concern and the Southern Baptists Convention.