Israel sends 260 strong emergency response team to Nepal’s earthquake disaster

Israel sends 260 strong emergency response team to Nepal’s earthquake disaster

A 260-strong Israeli emergency response team has arrived in Nepal after hundreds of Jewish and Israeli tourists were among those caught up in the country’s worst earthquake in 80 years.

Frantic relatives and partners have been trying to contact their loved ones in the small Himalayan nation, which is a popular destination for young Israelis taking a break after completing their army service. As of Sunday afternoon, over 150 remained unaccounted for.

The IDF contingent comprises army medics and engineers to assemble a fully-equipped field hospital, together with several search-and-rescue dog teams, after a 7.9 magnitude quake struck on Saturday morning with the power of 20 atomic bombs. Other countries volunteered helicopters, doctors and nurses.

By Monday, as the death-toll approached 3,500, planes began arriving back in Israel, ferrying the wounded to hospitals. Several Israeli couples were brought back with newborn children born to Nepalese surrogates.

IDF commanders said the pop-up Israeli facility in the capital Kathmandu could treat up to 200 patients per day, with paediatric, surgical, internal medicine, neonatal, and radiology departments as well as a maternity ward and operating rooms.

Head of Mission Col. Yarom Laredo said: “We will be finding people trapped under the rubble, and twelve hours later we will begin operating a field hospital… This is a large, high-end delegation with a considerable staff.”

In the initial aftermath, hundreds of Israeli backpackers and tourists took refuge in the Chabad centre in the capital, not far from the epicentre, as powerful aftershocks were felt in India, Bangladesh, Tibet and Pakistan.

Emergency treatment later moved to the Israeli embassy, as Chabad emissaries and volunteers struggled to provide food and co-ordinate with emergency teams and relatives to help locate the missing.

“We’re still gathering the names of the missing, and we’re trying to get in touch with everyone as urgently as possible,” said Chani Lifshitz, the centre’s co-director.

“We’ve taken care of a number of injured. The main work now is to gather all the names of the people who are in Katmandu and the people who are in the mountains. We hope to report only good news.”

Separate Israeli teams flew out on Sunday, with Magen David Adom lending medical support at the Chabad centre while another unit comprising emergency response organisations United Hatzalah, Zaka and First Israel set off for more far-flung areas.

British-born ZAKA volunteer Yossi Frenkel said the team’s mission included recovering the bodies of Jewish and Israeli tourists, and that they expected to be in Nepal for at least two weeks.

Among the first victims was British Google executive Dan Fredinburg, 33, who died in an avalanche on Mt. Everest. He had earlier founded Google Adventure, which aimed to bring Google Street View to such far-flung places as the Himalayas.

“His spirit will live on in so many of us,” wrote his younger sister Megan on his Instagram account. “All our love and thanks to those who shared this life with our favourite hilarious strong-willed man.”

Around the world, Jewish groups mobilised to collect emergency funds, with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee leading US efforts, while World Jewish Relief launched an appeal in the UK.

“This is a catastrophic natural disaster,” said WJR chief executive Paul Anticoni. “Disaster is widespread and we must respond immediately. As Jews we feel a deep responsibility to help those beyond our community at this time of huge crisis. We call on the British Jewish community to dig deep as usual to do all we can to help.”

In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin spoke of his pride at those undertaking the “brave humanitarian mission,” adding: “This delegation of messenger angels represents the universal values, in the spirit of our people and our country.”

They face an uphill battle. Lifshitz said “Kathmandu looks like a ghost town”. As temperatures in the mountainous region plummeted, he said: “Our electricity, phone service and water have been cut off, and little by little, our staples are running out.”

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