European countries overwhelmed Soviet authorities with assistance to Armenian earthquake victims Saturday in an unprecedented outpouring of concern for a natural disaster in the Soviet Union.
Cash donations, medical supplies, rescue teams, heavy earth-moving equipment and sniffer dogs to help find those still buried in the rubble had either arrived or were on their way to Soviet Armenia from a variety of official and private sources, mainly in Europe, but from further afield too.Even Israel and South Korea, two nations that have no diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, offered to help.
In Rome, Pope John Paul II sent a message of personal sympathy and pledged a $100,000 donation to support relief work. The pontiff rarely sends personal messages to world leaders, instead usually offering condolences through local church leaders.
The assistance follows the first-ever Soviet call to the West for help in dealing with a natural disaster. But if the generous official response from Western governments has surprised Soviet diplomats in Europe, the groundswell of public involvement has clearly overwhelmed them.
The depth and visible warmth of the response is one of the clearest indicators yet of the dramatic shift in public perceptions in Western Europe of the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev era.
The official French response to the disaster was swift. Thursday, President Francois Mitterrand sent a senior aide to the Soviet Embassy in Paris to ask what aid could be sent.
Friday morning a C-130 military aircraft departed for the Soviet Union with 147 rescue workers and a team of 22 doctors. A second aircraft with more rescue teams, sniffer dogs to help find those still buried in the debris, and medical supplies departed 12 hours later.
The first French team to arrive in Armenia, using sniffer dogs and infrared heat-seeking devices, found and freed 60 people trapped in rubble in the town of Leninakan.
In Britain, no fewer than four public appeals have been launched in the past 48 hours for the earthquake victims, including one by the YMCA and one by newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, who promptly loaded his private jet aircraft with medical supplies and dispatched it to the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
In Bonn, Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Saturday thanked the public for spontaneous donations and urged relief organizations to respond generously to the Soviet call for help. The West German Red Cross immediately pledged $1.1 million.
Two Italian Air Force DC-9s flew directly to Yerevan Friday from Rome carrying a team of rescue workers. Italian government officials said that they were prepared to send additional assistance.
**** Here are addresses of U. S. groups collecting relief for American earthquake victims: American Red Cross
International Disaster Relief
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013.
Armenian Relief Society of North America Inc.
80 Bigelow Ave.
Watertown, Mass. 02172
(collecting money, tents, blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing) Armenian Earthquake Relief Fund
(Armenian Assembly of America)
St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral
630 Second Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10016
Armenian General Benevolent Union
535 Saddle River Rd.
Saddle Brook, N.J. 07662
Catholic Medical Mission Board
10 West 17th Street
New York, N.Y. 10011
Pasadena, Calif. 91109
(money for medicine)