NEWS

AHEPA continues its earthquake relief

Over two years have passed since the afternoon of September 7, 1999, when dozens of Athenians were killed and thousands more became homeless after a powerful earthquake of 5.9 Richter devastated the Greek capital. For most of the nearly 5 million Athenians, that day is now just a distant memory. For others, though, especially the over 16,000 people who lost their homes in the earthquake and the families of those who died that morning, that early September day is still a daily reality. For a number of them, the ground has never really ceased the shake. Now, at a time when most people seem to have forgotten the tragic events of September 7, a Greek-American group appears to be at the forefront of earthquake relief, reminding everybody that there are still open wounds to be healed. The American-Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), which in 1999 raised $220,000 for earthquake relief, recently identified three beneficiaries which can best utilize the funds it raised in its promise to help Athens. Deciding to allocate the funds to enhance rescue mechanisms used by rapid response units and to help rebuild facilities destroyed by the natural disaster, AHEPA delegates on December 14 presented the Greek Red Cross with a Mercedes-Benz minivan. The vehicle is capable of carrying a seven-member emergency rescue unit and equipment to disaster areas. «We are confident the mini-van will be an invaluable asset to the Greek Red Cross Action Team because of its versatility, maneuverability and safety features,» said AHEPA Supreme President Andrew T. Banis in a statement released by the group. «The minivan goes hand-in-hand with our previous donation to the Greek Red Cross of sonar detection equipment that can easily be transported in the van.» The sonar equipment, also known as the Trapped Person Locator, leads the rescue team quickly and efficiently to the victim, saving precious minutes of time that might otherwise have been spent on a fruitless search. «The sonar equipment donated uses leading-edge technology that allows it to ‘hear’ noises, cries of help, and knocking sounds made by trapped victims,» noted Steve Betzelos, chairman of ELPAM Electronics which manufactures the sonar equipment. «Although we hope it never has to be used, we are confident the locator will be an additional beneficial tool that will help save lives.» According to AHEPA, more aid is under way, with the next relief donation being a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter ambulance to the second beneficiary, Evangelismos Hospital, where there already is a 10-story AHEPA wing. The group says the ambulance has been ordered and will be delivered this month. The third recipient of relief funds will be the Municipality of Menidi, one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake. As much as $105,000 will be allocated toward the rebuilding of a children’s day-care center that was demolished by the disaster. Have the Russians reversed their position after realizing that such a move would open the door to other countries’ claims, or have they made new demands that Greece is unable to satisfy?