Entries in Relief Effort (4)


Iran Now Accepting Foreign Aid to Assist Earthquake Victims

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran acknowledged on Tuesday that it needs outside help to assist the victims of two powerful earthquakes that struck the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan last weekend.

More than 300 people were killed and between 3,000 and 5,000 others were injured.  The affected region is primarily inhabited by ethnic Azeris, one of Iran's largest minority populations.

Initially, Tehran said that foreign assistance wasn't welcomed and that its Red Crescent relief agency could handle the job alone. But apparently, the government changed its stance, with Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi announcing his government will take contributions from other countries.

Earlier in the week, the Obama administration declared that American citizens can make donations without fear of breaking the law since sanctions imposed on Iran make it illegal for businesses and other entities to deal directly with Tehran.

One of the other problems facing Iran is taking care of the 16,000 people left homeless by the quakes, which damaged at least 180 villages.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Encourages Donations to Help Iran Earthquake Victims

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Most of the 300 people killed by two powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Iran last weekend were women and children, according to U.S. officials familiar with the rescue efforts.  As many as 5,000 people were injured.

East Azerbaijan province is primarily inhabited by ethnic Azeris, one of Iran's largest minority populations.

Six villages were completely destroyed while more than half of the 110 villages affected by the magnitude 6.3 and 6.4 temblors sustained damage of at least 50 percent.

While the Iranian government claims it does not need international help in dealing with the humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration says private citizens can make donations without fear of retribution.

The U.S. has leveled various economic sanctions against Iran to punish it for refusing to freeze its rogue nuclear program.  That includes barring businesses from dealing with the Iranian government.

However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced, "Americans wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iranians during this time may donate food and medicine without obtaining an Iranian transactions regulations license," meaning exemptions are allowed because the aid goes directly to the victims, not the government.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japan Disasters Spark Volunteer Boom, But System Overwhelmed

MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- So many Japanese have traded in their vacations for grueling volunteer work in tsunami-ravaged communities that they're being turned away in droves, as the country marks a week-long holiday known as "Golden Week."

"We started getting calls to volunteer from large groups in early April," said Hideo Otsuki, who directs volunteer operations in Ishinomaki city.  "We had to set our limit at 1,000 volunteers a day."

Administrators have been so overwhelmed by requests to help, they've had to reject applicants, and ask them to postpone their trips until after the holiday week.

The extended spring break during the first week of May is traditionally a time when Japanese families travel out of town to relax, but with the holiday coming less than two months after the March 11 disasters this year, many Japanese have opted to travel northeast to coastal towns hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami.

The death toll from the devastating earthquake and tsunami has climbed to 14,755, while 10,706 are still considered missing, according to Japan's National Police Agency.

At the Iwate Disaster Volunteer Center in Morioka, more than 10,000 people have signed up to work in the past five days, in a country where organized volunteer groups are relatively new.  Volunteers have been tasked with shoveling mud, clearing debris and cleaning homes flooded by tsunami waves.

The center is offering bus services to the disaster areas daily, to avoid additional traffic congestion, although some organized tours are offering their own transportation.

In Ishinomaki, much of the debris has been cleared from major roads but piles of trash and rubble still fill residential streets.

Otsuki is pairing volunteers with individual families, so their needs are met directly.  Some are helping strip out floors to clear the mud underneath while others are helping to haul damaged furniture.

With limited lodging available, volunteers have pitched tents, filling parking lots already flooded with out of town cars.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Navy Scales Back Japan Effort to Four Ships

Jonathan Wood/Getty Images(HOSHNU, Japan) -- At its peak, the Navy had 22 ships dedicated to the Japanese relief effort that became known as Operation Tomodachi.
Monday night, the Navy scaled back its effort to four ships. The carrier USS Ronald Reagan has departed the eastern shore of Japan and will remain on duty in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations.  Before departing, the Japanese defense minister visited the Reagan to thank Navy sailors and airmen for their efforts.
The four remaining ships are the command ship USS Blue Ridge, the amphibious ships USS Essex and the USS Tortuga and the salvage ship USS Safeguard.    
In addition to the four ships, 54 Navy aircraft and 4,295 personnel are actively engaged in Operation Tomodachi.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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