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DISASTER IN SOVIET ARMENIA : Hammer Flies Supplies to Quake Area

December 11, 1988|ERIC MALNIC | Times Staff Writer

Occidental Petroleum Corp. Chairman Armand Hammer took off from Los Angeles International Airport for the Soviet Union on Saturday with a planeload of earthquake relief aid that included $1 million in checks and several million dollars in emergency medical supplies.

More financial aid for the quake victims was sought in an appeal from Gov. George Deukmejian, whose parents were Armenian immigrants.

"For those of us of Armenian heritage, this disaster is particularly painful," Deukmejian said in a videotape prepared for broadcast during an all-night telethon on television station KSCI, Channel 18. The station specializes in programing for Los Angeles' multi-ethnic communities.

Urges Contributions

"During this season of giving, I would like to urge everyone to contribute to (the) vital, lifesaving efforts," the governor said.

Half of the $1 million carried to the Soviet Union by Hammer was his own donation and half came from World Vision, the Christian relief organization based in Monrovia.

The 2,300 pounds of medical supplies, most of which were provided by the American Red Cross, included antibiotics and other drugs, bandages, sutures and three kidney dialysis machines.

Occidental's Boeing 727 was one of three planes that left the United States on Saturday with aid for earthquake-ravaged Soviet Armenia. A chartered airliner flew from Washington's Dulles International Airport carrying a medical trauma team and eight search-and-rescue dogs and their handlers. A military plane left Andrews Air Force Base, near the nation's capital, bearing professional rescue teams and their equipment.

In San Francisco, blankets, clothing and more than $100,000 in checks and cash flowed into the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic church. The church hoped to ship the goods through the Soviet Consulate there; the money was to be sent to Washington for the purchase of additional relief supplies.

'Just Want to Help'

"We have old ladies walking in with donations as well as neighbors and those who aren't even Armenian," Albert Balaian, chairman of the board of trustees of St. Gregory, told United Press International. "All of them have one thing in mind--they just want to help."

In the Los Angeles area, 14 Armenian churches scheduled vigils Saturday night and special services today.

Hammer--known as the "Kremlin's favorite capitalist" because of his enduring business and humanitarian ties with the Soviet Union--told reporters at LAX that he had been in touch with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev on Friday and that Gorbachev said "he welcomes my assistance . . .

"The Russians said they have plenty of doctors and nurses," Hammer said. "What they need is medical supplies."

The industrialist was joined on the flight by Robert Seiple, president of World Vision, and UCLA physician Dr. Rosa Maria Durazo, who participated in a similar mercy mission following the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake.

Archbishop Vatche Housepian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley joined the group at planeside.

Bradley offered the city's thanks "for the compassion and humanitarian spirit" demonstrated by Hammer, saying the industrialist is "serving as a guide for the community to follow."

The mayor said the outpouring of assistance from the United States shows there is "something about the human spirit that overcomes (national) boundaries."

Hammer said he expects to reach the quake-damaged area in Soviet Armenia sometime this afternoon. He said he hopes to meet with Gorbachev while in the Soviet Union

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