Israel has launched its search and rescue mission along with providing urgent medical assistance in the disaster zone in Nepal following a devastating earthquake.
Nepal is struggling to recover from its worst earthquake in 80 years, which claimed more than 4,000 lives and left thousands homeless and with no basic resources.
Israel responded immediately to the tragedy, and after much delay due to harsh and perilous conditions in the disaster zone, the IDF humanitarian mission aircraft arrived in Nepal on Monday morning. According to an official statement from the army, 260 IDF personnel have begun the search and rescue efforts.
Upon landing, they began loading the supplies brought from Israel onto Nepalese army trucks. The planes carried 95 tons of medical and logistical equipment, including critical material to set up field hospitals within 12 hours of arrival.
Nepalese at the airport were reportedly astounded by the Israeli relief mission. One of them was Truban Salama from the city of Pokhara. “My house was not destroyed but many houses in my area were damaged and the situation is pretty terrible,” he told Israel’s Ynet. “We respect and cherish the Israeli aid efforts. Your rescue efforts show your humanity. When I saw the Israeli plane land I asked, ‘What happened?’ ‘Why are you gathering here?’ And then I understood that it was part of the rescue operations.”
A special delegation of Magen David Adom (MDA – Israel’s Red Cross) landed in Kathmandu on Monday and immediately administered medical treatment to Israelis as well as to countless other victims. The delegation continues to work in the area in full cooperation with the Red Cross and relevant authorities in Israel.
While taking care of the Israelis and trying to locate missing citizens, MDA team members joined the local rescue and medical teams and treated dozens of earthquake victims, providing medical support to the local teams and joining the local ambulances to help provide medical care in the streets and disaster-stricken areas.
In Kathmandu, senior paramedic Ilan Klein said: “It’s hard to describe the dimensions and magnitude of this disaster which struck Nepal. The number of injuries and fatalities is unimaginable. As part of the humanitarian activity of MDA…we try our best to help and contribute our knowledge and longtime experience gained in MDA from past missions in order to help save as many lives as possible.”
The IDF Home Front Command briefed participants on progress in setting up a field hospital in Nepal that will be able to treat approximately 200 patients a day.
Continued Efforts to Extract Israelis
In the meantime, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is continuing in its state of emergency with efforts directed at providing assistance simultaneously to Israelis, Nepalese and others caught up in the disaster.
The Ministry, via its embassy in Kathmandu, is aiding Israelis while remaining in touch with the families of travelers who have not established contact. Eleven Israelis missing Israelis in Nepal have yet to make contact. The whereabouts of dozens more are known, but it has not been possible to reach them, a spokesperson from Prime Minister’s Office said.
In addition to efforts to locate and rescue stranded Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the investigation of ways to send food and warm blankets as well as an attempt to reach them with the help of local security escorts.
It was also reported that so far, 338 Israelis have returned home. Also, 25 infants have already landed in Israel.
The Israeli embassy has opened its gates to those seeking shelter, and since Saturday, more than 150 have sought refuge there. The embassy is attempting to locate, rescue and aid other Israelis currently in Nepal.
An El Al plane carrying some 229 Israelis stranded in Nepal took off for Israel on Tuesday morning.
Israel Planning Long-Term Aid to Nepal
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman spoke on Tuesday with Nepal Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey. The Israeli foreign minister expressed Israel’s deep sorrow at the tragedy and conveyed the condolences of the Israeli people for the heavy loss of life.
Liberman discussed with his counterpart the establishment of an Israeli field hospital, search and rescue teams, and shipments of medical and humanitarian aid, adding that Israel will continue to assist in any way it can. Pandey thanked Liberman, saying that the Nepalese people deeply appreciate the Israeli efforts.
Liberman in turn thanked Pandey for the Nepalese authorities’ assistance in sending helicopters to evacuate Israelis stranded in remote areas.
Israel is also making plans for long-term assistance to Nepal. The head of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV), Ambassador Gil Haskel, held a meeting on Monday to discuss the second stage of aid to Nepal with a focus on long-term assistance to the country.
“We are focusing on two efforts,” Netanyahu stated Tuesday afternoon following consultation with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, Foreign Ministry Director General Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, Home Front Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick and MDA Director General Eli Bein, as well as representatives from the Justice and Public Security ministries.
“Our first effort is to locate and rescue Israelis who are in distress in Nepal and enable their safe return home,” the Israeli leader stated. “To this end we are continuing operational and diplomatic activity with the Nepalese government and with other elements. At the same time, we are operating a field hospital in Nepal to help the Nepalese people in their hour of distress. We are operating under two principles: All Israel is responsible one for the other, and Israel extending a hand in humanitarian assistance in Nepal as it has done in many other places around the world.”