Hundreds of rescuers with the Israel Defense Forces readied to leave to Nepal Sunday in a bid to assist the Himalayan country to deal with the devastating aftermath of an earthquake a day earlier.
The Israeli military is sending 260 trained personnel to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal, which killed more than 2,300 people and leveled large areas of capital Kathmandu.
The IDF team will focus on search and rescue and creating a full field hospital, which will be operational within 12 hours of landing.
“Because we coming in a relatively short time, we are hoping to find survivors underneath the rubble, so for this stage the main mission is to save lives,” said Col Yoram Laredo, who is the commander of the Search and Rescue Corps and the head of the IDF delegation to Nepal.
The search and rescue team has 60 members and can operate in three separate locations simultaneously. The IDF delegation rented two Boeing 747s to carry personnel and 95 tons of supplies.
“You are being sent on an important mission,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Laredo before he took off. “This is the real face of Israel — a state that comes to assist those far away at moments like these. Good luck, we are counting on you.”
The Kathmandu airport is currently open to relief flights, though poor weather delayed the IDF flights from taking off, from a planned 7 a.m. departure to 8 p.m.
The field hospital will include “pediatric, surgical, internal medicine, neonatal, and radiology departments as well as a maternity ward and emergency and operating room,” The IDF said in a statement.
It added that the hospital would be able to treat about 200 patients a day.
“This is a large, high-end delegation with a considerable staff, including the 40 doctors and nurses of the field hospital,” Laredo said in the statement.
The Joint Distribution Committee will also partner with the IDF’s field hospital, providing neonatal incubators as well as items for the general population, including equipment for temporary shelter and sanitation, water, and nutritional items.
Mandie Winston, director of JDC’s International Development Program, said that as the organization deals with the current emergency situation, they will be exploring how to provide long-term services to Nepal. “Given the dire conditions on the ground, and challenges that existed before the earthquake, we are focused on ensuring that the most vulnerable – women, children, the elderly, and people with special needs – are protected and cared for now and in the future,” she said in a statement.
Magen David Adom’s first plane left early Sunday morning with medical supplies and baby formula, and arrived in Nepal at 10:30 a.m.
MDA director Eli Bean said the paramedics went straight to the Chabad House to create a first aid station. Both the IDF and MDA are concentrating their efforts in the capital of Kathmandu, which has the highest concentration of injuries. There are 15 paramedics and doctors on the MDA mission, according to MDA spokesman Zaki Heller.
Tevel B’Tzedek, an Israeli nonprofit that has worked in Nepalese villages bringing Jewish volunteers to assist with agriculture and education, is acting as a facilitator for the many Israeli aid groups flying to Nepal to help.
“We are in a unique position to help because we have so much staff that knows Kathmandu really well and speaks Nepali, as well as Nepali staff,” said Micha Odenheimer, the director of Tevel B’Tzedek. Tevel B’Tzedek currently has long-term volunteer programs in Nepal and Burundi. Tevel B’Tzedek has about 50 volunteers and Israeli staff and about 50 Nepali staff. None of the staff or participants were injured, though 14 volunteers and two staff members are working in a village named Manegau in the Kabri district that was heavily damaged.
“There’s a lot of trust in Nepal for Israel,” Odenheimer added. “Israel has a very good name, and [the countries] are really old friends. Israel is very highly thought of by the Nepali army, which is crucial. Israel has a good advantage being able to integrate into the Nepali efforts.” Odenheimer added that the Israeli army gave a lot of social and military assistance in the 1960s, after Nepal recognized the State of Israel.
Inbar Eron, part of the Israeli staff of Tevel B’Tzedek in Manegau who has been in the country for a year and a half, was with a group of 18 Israeli volunteers and two staff members. “Everyone is outside of their homes, because there’s not a lot left of the homes,” she wrote in a Whatsapp message to the Times of Israel. “We are doing okay ahead of our second night out in the fields, although now it just started a crazy downpour.” She said that for the time being they are staying in their village, an hour and a half outside of Kathmandu, because there isn’t a possibility of going anywhere else.
On Sunday evening, IsraAID will send an initial disaster team to determine needs and supplies ahead of a larger emergency response team. IsraAID will also build child-friendly spaces for children wandering the streets.
Dozens of aftershocks have shaken the area since the initial 7.8 magnitude quake on Saturday at 11:56 a.m. local time, forcing residents to stay on the streets rather than return home. Thunderstorms are predicted for the coming week, making temporary shelter a priority.