To honor the efforts of countries that offered significant help during the massive earthquake that shook the Ionian Islands exactly 50 years ago this month, representatives from these countries will be honored at a ceremony by Mayor of Argostoli, Gerasimos Forte, tomorrow evening. The earthquake had caused extensive damage to life and property on the islands of Kefalonia, Ithaca and Zakynthos.
The ceremony will take place in Argostoli's Kefalos Theater, and guests include Thomas Miller, ambassador of USA, Ram Avriam, Ambassador of Israel, as well as several diplomats from the French, Italian, Russian and Swedish embassies.
Addressing the ceremony will be Gerasimos Apostolatos, former minister, and is mainly aimed at expressing gratitude towards the efforts of the people who helped out during that difficult time, as well as to remember the lives that were lost and property and cultural heritage that was destroyed during the earthquake. One of the first rescue workers to arrive at the scene of the quake were the Israeli Navy, and the rescuers, which included locals, worked together to provide all form of help, like medical care, housing as well as mental support to the victims.
The support provided by foreigners, especially the British and the French was quite overwhelming, with huge collections turning out from these countries. Numerous foreign governments provided immense support to the Greek government, which had dispatched Alpheios, a landing craft to the Ithaca as well as to Sami, on Kefalonia, immediately.
On August 15th, the Church of Greece held its first collection to aid quake victims, which is also the feast day of the Dormition of the Virgin. These collections were added to those gathered by Red Cross as well as other Greek organizations. The generosity of the Greeks who helped is quite remarkable, and the help given by foreigners was deeply heroic, such as the Israeli Navy which started rescue operations even as the earth shook beneath their feet.
Brazilian Ambassador Ruis Piniero, was the first to make an official gesture towards the relief operation, with a letter to Stefanos Stephanopoulos, which contained a check of $100, made out to the Greek Red Cross. This was only a symbolic gesture, which was the forerunner to many contributions from states, big and small.
The part played by the British Navy is also commendable as they immediately sent ships to the site of the quake from Malta. The French on the other hand, helped rebuild Agia Efemia, Sami and Lakythra.
Alessandrini, Ambassador of Italy, on August 12th announced that Italy would send in help, as they had not yet forgotten the help Kefalonians provided Italian soldiers in 1943. In a positive gesture to show support, the Soviet Red Cross donated $63,000, a commendable act as the Greek- Soviet relationship was just becoming stronger since efforts from 1947. Sweden helped construct a hospital as well as several other public buildings. Some other countries which helped were Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, West Germany, Yugoslavia, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Poland, Egypt and New Zealand. President of Egypt, General Neguib went to the Greek Embassy in Cairo personally and made a contribution. Lichtenstein, a small state in comparison to the other countries that contributed, nevertheless made its own contribution for the victims of the quake, it was a landmark moment for international cooperation.