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1/4/04 - AID FLOWS TO IRAN QUAKE VICTIMS - 2004-01-05

“The thoughts of all Americans are with the victims and their families.” Those are the words of President George W. Bush, in the wake of the earthquake that devastated the southern Iranian city of Bam. Iranian state radio has reported that thirty-thousand bodies have been recovered and buried. The death toll could go much higher.

The United States is rushing aid to the survivors. American surgeons, nurses, and paramedics have set up a field hospital in the center of Bam. American non-governmental organizations are getting involved. Margaret Larson, with the U.S.-based relief organization, Mercy Corps, told the Voice of America that her group has a team at work in Bam:

"They brought with them truckloads of bottled water and oil heaters, which are both used as stoves and for warmth. And also double-sized blankets. So we're now working on getting tents into the area and medicine. It looks to be a very large-scale disaster. And it appears that this is going to be going on for some time. There are a great many people, maybe as many as one-hundred thousand, homeless at this time."

Survivors have been huddling in tents and in front of fires trying to stay warm as temperatures dip below freezing. The U.S. military is flying in tons of blankets, sheeting, medical supplies, and water.

President Bush says it is important that the Iranian people know that Americans care about their suffering. But this does not indicate a change of heart about the Iranian government. Before that can happen, says Mr. Bush, the Iranian government must take concrete steps:

“The Iranian government must listen to the voices of those who long for freedom, must turn over al-Qaida that are in their custody, and must abandon their nuclear weapons program.”

In the meantime, as Mr. Bush said, “It's right to take care of people when they hurt and we're doing that.” And the Iranian people are thankful. As Shiite Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmad Faiz said, "For Americans to come here and help us in such a situation, I really appreciate it and all Iranians appreciate it.” Because the needs of the Iranian people transcend the differences the U.S. has with their government, the U.S. will continue to help the survivors of the Iran earthquake.