AmeriCares to send team, medical supplies to Iran

Associated Press


HARTFORD - Humanitarian aid organization AmeriCares was readying Sunday to send medical supplies, food and tents to southeastern Iran, which was devastated by an earthquake that left the area in ruins.

Friday's 6.6 quake killed an estimated 20,000 people when it struck near the ancient fort city of Bam. Many of the victims still had not been recovered from the crumbled city Sunday.

Two people from the Stamford-based group were dispatched over the weekend to evaluate the disaster area and work with medical personnel and Iranian officials to prepare for the cargo delivery.

"We're focusing on trauma care and saving lives that are very fragile right now," said AmeriCares vice president Christoph Gorder, who left Sunday. "People are being pulled out of rubble, and we don't want to lose them because there aren't medical supplies."

When he spoke with Iranian doctors by phone, Gorder said he was told that a six-month supply of medical materials was depleted in just 24 hours. As doctors worked to treat thousands of victims, many were coping with the deaths of their own family members, he said.

The first wave of help from the United States and around the world began pouring into the country Sunday. U.S. planes carrying food and other aid landed in Kerman, the provincial capital, early Sunday, said a spokesman for the governor's office, Saeed Iranmanesh. They were the first American aircraft to land in Iran in more than a decade.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with the Islamic republic and last year President Bush included Iran as part of the "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea.

The United States plans to send a total of 75 tons of medical supplies and about 200 rescue and medical experts. Gorder said AmeriCares will send about 70,000 pounds of medicine and supplies.

The first of the AmeriCares aid shipments was scheduled to land in the country by mid-week, Gorder said. A cargo plane packed with medical supplies will leave from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks Tuesday night. Officials anticipate sending additional shipments, Gorder said. Supplies included diabetic supplies     blood pressure monitors, stethoscopes and Ostomy supplies

The critical needs are shelter because of near-freezing temperatures, water purification tablets to prevent cholera and medical supplies, Gorder said. Volunteers in Connecticut plan work with both medical and financial donors to amass donations this week, he said.

Gorder, who has responded to earthquake disaster areas in El Salvador, Turkey and Colombia, said it will take time for the region to recover after the disaster.

"It will be years before they recover. Literally years," he said. "I think right now it's probably a scene of pandemonium and desperation, and just the worst possible loss you could ever imagine." -------

Potential donors can contact AmeriCares at 1-800-486-HELP.