Armenian immigrants flooded telephone lines in mostly futile attempts to learn whether their kin survived the catastrophic Soviet earthquake, while Armeniam-American organizations pressed Moscow to begin relief flights Friday.
Throughout the country, Armenian-Americans continued to mobilize swift relief efforts for survivors of the quake that killed tens of thousands and devastated several cities in Soviet Armenia.
From Los Angeles, where the nation's largest Armenian-American community resides, a relief plane was to leave for Boston, where it was to pick up additional supplies and depart for the Soviet Union said Philip Hovnanian, president of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, an umbrella group for Armenian religious and community organizations.
State Department clearance was given, but approval from Moscow hadn't been obtained late Thursday, Hovnanian said.
"We are optimistic," he said from New York. "This is a humane, Christian mission."
Hovnanian said he feared Moscow was withholding its permission for American relief flights because of the ethnic unrest plaguing the soviet republics of Armenia and Azervaijan.
"The Soviet government may fear this situation may give opportunity for some (American) Armenians to become politically involved." But, he added,"The size of the devastation is so big they should welcome all help."
"The immediate needs are shelter, medical supplies, clothing and blood," Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, said at a news conference at New York's Armenian cathedral.
Manoogian and a delegation of Armenian prelates from around the world held the news conference after a one-hour meeting with Soviet officials as the Soviet mission ot the United Nations.
As news of the quake's magnitude spread, the nation's Armenian communitities struggled to contact relatives in the Soviet Union.
"We can't reach Armenia," said Suren Bursalyan, editor of the Los Angeles Armenian biweekly, Paros. "All of the phone lines are shot. Our only information is American television."
Tamara Sulukhyia, a Soviet exchange student at Bowdoin college in Maine, did get through to her parents. She said the earthquake had spared her family. "I talked with my parents and I asked, `Is it true or not?' and they answered that it was a very hard earthquake," Sulukhyia said.
Californai Gov. George Deukmejian, himself of Armenian descent, offered his sympathy.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this very difficult time." Deukmejian said. "As Califronians, we are all too familiar with devastating earthquakes."