Israel’s field hospital in earthquake-hit Nepal began operating Wednesday morning, with staff treating nearly 100 patients and delivering their first baby — a boy — on the first day, according to an IDF spokesperson.
Among the patients were some 30 Israeli nationals. Most were suffering from dehydration and were soon released to their hotels.
Over 250 doctors and rescue personnel were part of an IDF delegation that landed Tuesday in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, in the wake of Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake that devastated large swaths of the mountainous country, killing at least 5,000 and leaving some 8,000 wounded and tens of thousands seeking shelter and food.
The Israeli group set up the field hospital with 60 beds, including an obstetrics department, and was operating in coordination with the local army hospital.
The 1st baby boy was born in our field hospital this afternoon. Baby is healthy & undergoing care, mom is in recovery pic.twitter.com/RkxMKzZQ8U
— IDF Rescue (@IDFrescue) April 29, 2015
Of 2,000 Israelis who were in the country when the natural disaster hit, only one remains unaccounted for, even as some were still stranded in far-flung areas of the country, awaiting rescue.
Or Asraf, 22, was seen alive and well an hour after the quake, according to a Channel 2 report, but the information was secondhand and not confirmed. Asraf was moderately wounded fighting with the IDF in last summer’s Gaza war. After recovering from his injuries and completing his army service, he went backpacking in Nepal, a popular destination for post-army Israelis, and was slated to return to Israel in July.
Friends from his Egoz army unit were reported to be preparing to fly to Nepal to search for him. Two of his army colleagues left for Kathmandu along with Asraf’s father on Wednesday and will be joined Thursday by his unit commander and two other members.
According to a report in NRG, two of Asraf’s friends were traveling with him earlier this month but returned to Israel to mark Memorial Day. The friends told NRG they knew the route of Asraf’s planned trek and could be useful in locating him. The group will join search and rescue teams on the ground to look for Asraf.
His parents last heard from him on Friday. He was last seen in the Langtang region.
— Peter Lerner (@LTCPeterLerner) April 29, 2015
Meanwhile, the first supplies of food aid began reaching remote, earthquake-shattered mountain villages in Nepal, while thousands clamored to board buses out of Kathmandu, either to check on rural relatives or for fear of spending yet another night in the damaged capital.
Frustration over the slow delivery of humanitarian aid boiled over in a protest in the city, with about 200 people facing off with police and blocking traffic.
Planes carrying food and other supplies have been steadily arriving at Kathmandu’s small airport, but the aid distribution process remains fairly chaotic, with Nepalese officials having difficulty directing the flow of emergency supplies.
A man who was freed after being trapped for 82 hours in a collapsed hotel gave details of his ordeal, saying he drank his own urine to survive.
“I had some hope, but by yesterday I’d given up,” Rishi Khanal told The Associated Press from his hospital bed Wednesday. “My nails went all white and my lips cracked … I was sure no one was coming for me. I was certain I was going to die.”
The 27-year-old Khanal, whose foot was crushed under the debris, said he was surrounded by bodies and kept banging on the rubble until a French rescue team pulled him out.
“I am thankful,” he said.
Helicopters also finally brought food, temporary shelter and other aid to hamlets north of Kathmandu in the mountainous Gorkha District near the epicenter of Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake. Entire clusters of homes there were reduced to piles of stone and splintered wood. Women greeted the delivery with repeated cries of “We are hungry!”
While the death toll in the village of Gumda was low — only five people were killed and 20 were injured among 1,300 residents — most had lost their homes and desperately needed temporary shelter, along with the 40-kilogram (90-pound) sacks of rice that were delivered Wednesday. Adding to residents’ misery was the rain that has fallen periodically since the quake and hampered helicopter aid flights.
The UN World Food Program warned that it will take time for food and other supplies to reach more remote communities that have been cut off by landslides.
“More helicopters, more personnel and certainly more relief supplies, including medical teams, shelter, tents, water and sanitation and food, are obviously needed,” said the program’s Geoff Pinnock, who was coordinating the flights.
With more than 8 million Nepalese affected by the earthquake, including 1.4 million who need immediate food assistance, Pinnock said the effort would continue for months.
Police said the official death toll in Nepal had reached 5,266 as of late Wednesday. That figure did not include the 19 people killed at Mount Everest — five foreign climbers and 14 Nepalese Sherpa guides — when the quake unleashed an avalanche at base camp.
In Kathmandu, where most buildings were spared complete collapse, many residents — fearing aftershocks — continued to camp in parks and other open spaces.
But people were starting to leave tent cities like those in Kathmandu’s Tudikhel area. Anop Bhattachan and more than two dozen relatives have been sleeping on the field since Saturday, but he said they now want to get out of the city.
Thousands waited at bus stations in Kathmandu, hoping to reach their hometowns in rural areas. Some wanted to check on the fate of family and loved ones in the quake, while others were fearful of more aftershocks in the city.
“I am hoping to get on a bus, any bus heading out of Kathmandu. I am too scared to be staying in Kathmandu,” said Raja Gurung, who wanted to get to his home in western Nepal. “The house near my rented apartment collapsed. It was horrible. I have not gone indoors in many days. I would rather leave than live a life of fear in Kathmandu.”
Despite Wednesday’s small protest, there were signs that life was inching back to normal in the capital. Banks opened for a few hours and refilled their ATMs with cash, some shops reopened and vendors returned to the streets.