| A man carries two brothers who were killed in the earthquake. (Reuters)
Geneva, Dec. 27 (Reuters): US President George W. Bush, who once branded Iran part of an “axis of evil”, and other world leaders today rushed aid to Iran, struggling to cope with an earthquake disaster that killed some 20,000 people.
From China to South Africa, Europe to Australia, nations reacted swiftly to send rescue workers, doctors, tents and cash to help deal with what appeared to be the world’s worst earthquake in at least 10 years.
“We stand ready to help the people of Iran.” Bush said in a statement.
Washington has no official ties with Tehran, but a US official said an aid package would be announced soon.
Washington broke diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic after militant students stormed the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Bush has accused Iran of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction in secret, but Tehran said assistance was welcome from every corner of the globe other than Israel, its other great political enemy along with the US.
President Mohammad Khatami has admitted Iran cannot cope on its own. The official IRNA news agency quoted Mousavi-Lari as saying assistance would be welcome from every corner of the globe other than Israel.
The United Nations said it was releasing an immediate emergency grant of $90,000 and had sent experts to assess damage. Its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the UN team would also work to mobilise and oversee international assistance.
The immediate need was for medicines, tents, mobile hospitals, electricity generators, water purification equipment and blankets, OCHA official Madeleine Moulin-Azevedo said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office said he had ordered the emergencies ministry, which deals with frequent natural and man-made disasters, to send doctors, paramedics and sniffer dog handlers to help find people buried under rubble.
Planes were due leave for Iran today with 100 experts for searching collapsed buildings, 10 doctors and search dogs.
Russia has close ties with Iran, and is building a nuclear power station near the southern city of Bushehr on the Gulf.
Germany, one of the first countries to pledge help, said it was sending a transport plane carrying 28 tonnes of mainly medical supplies and clean water equipment.
A plane carrying 42 German rescuers arrived in the Iranian capital today.
Italy, as current president of the European Union, was coordinating EU aid.
Agostino Miozzo, the official coordinating EU aid, said France was sending a field hospital and the Czech Republic, one of 10 countries entering the bloc next year, also offered help.
“This is the first time EU coordination is taking place for a disaster,” Miozzo said. The EU Commission said it would mobilise $995,100 of initial humanitarian aid.
India said it was planning to send tents and blankets to Iran.
Part of a 60-strong British rescue team with sniffer dogs, special cameras and listening devices arrived in Bam today and officials said the rest were expected to join them soon.