IDF rescue team in action. (IDF) (IDF)
IDF rescue teams in action. (IDF)

Israel, which is known for its immediate and exemplary assistance to countries in distress, has sent a large rescue team to the earthquake disaster zone in Nepal.

The MDA rescue team before takeoff to Nepal. (MDA spokesman)

The MDA rescue team before takeoff to Nepal. (MDA spokesman)

Israel has sent a rescue team to Nepal following the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake which claimed over 2,000 lives and left thousands homeless on Saturday. It was the worst earthquake to hit the county in the past 80 years.

Specialized medical teams took off Sunday morning aboard two Israeli Air Force planes carrying medical equipment and other needed supplies. The team includes some 240 IDF search and rescue personnel and medics who will establish a field hospital.

The team also includes 15 Magen David Adom (MDA – Israel’s Red Cross) medics and doctors, and the organization is reviewing the possibility of sending an even-larger team. Preparations were made in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The team is expected to stay in the disaster zone for at least two weeks.

Dr. Rafi Strugo, director of MDA’s Medical Division, explained. “Our mission consists of three parts: first of all, reach the Israelis that are there,” and provide them with assistance and care.

“Our second mission is to establish a first aid station where the teams will provide treatment for the first 48 hours and provide pain killers, antibiotics, bandages, as well as classify the more severely wounded and see how we can evacuate them to the hospital.”

“The third task is to map out the additional needs in terms of medical assistance for what is known as the second wave – the larger delegations that usually arrive after three or four days – and establish a field hospital.”

Relying on Extensive Rescue Experience

Magen David Adom has provided exemplary medical assistance to victims of medical disasters in many countries. “We have extensive experience,” said Strugo. “We organize the equipment, manpower, talk with the authorities, and unfortunately perform this procedure about once a year. We joined rescue efforts in Sri Lanka and Haiti after the earthquakes, and in Burgas after the terror attack.”

Further aid from Israel to Nepal is under review.

The rescue delegation will land near the affected zone and make preparations until it becomes possible to land in Nepal. Israelis in the disaster zone will receive the means necessary to return to Israel.  There are to date no reports on injured Israelis, although some 200 are categorized as missing, as they have not made contact with their families or with Israeli officials since the earthquake. Nepal is a popular tourism destination for Israelis.

The rescue delegation was authorized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

IDF rescue

IDF rescuers board a plane to Nepal. (Tal Lisus/IDF Spokesperson)

Liberman spoke on the phone with Israeli Ambassador to Nepal Yaron Meir on Saturday night and received an update on the situation. Liberman instructed his Ministry to augment the embassy staff in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu as soon as possible.

Netanyahu sent a letter to Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, saying that Israel was “pained by the disaster that has befallen Nepal.” He extended his offer for Israeli aid in rescue efforts and the provision of medical assistance.

The prime minister conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished a full recovery to the injured. He declared that the State of Israel and its citizens “stood alongside Nepal in this difficult hour.”

Responding to the disaster, President Reuven Rivlin stated: “Our thoughts and hearts go out to the people of Nepal dealing with this awful disaster and with our loved ones who are in distress. The State of Israel is reaching out to help the search and rescue of the many victims.”

Israel has a proud history of leading humanitarian, medical and logistical assistance to countries in distress around the world, including to tornado victims in Oklahoma, typhoon refuges in previous storms in the Philippines and earthquake victims in Haiti.