Israel’s aid team to the earthquake-battered Himalayan nation of Nepal is one of the largest in manpower of any international aid mission.
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 a field hospital with 60 beds that began operations on Wednesday in coordination with the local army hospital.
Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and the Nepalese Army’s chief of staff visited the field hospital to attend its opening ceremony.
Dozens of Israeli backpackers are stranded in far-flung areas of the country, especially in the Gosainkunda lakes area. The Foreign Ministry says only one Israeli, Or Asraf, remains unaccounted for of the 2,000 who were in the country when the quake hit Saturday. A report Wednesday afternoon on Channel 2 suggested that Asraf was seen alive and well an hour after the quake, but the information was second-hand and not confirmed. Israeli rescue teams hope to finish locating and extracting the last of the stranded backpackers by the end of the day Wednesday.
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.
Israel’s aid convoy to the quake-stricken nation is the largest ever sent by the IDF overseas. Israel has deployed field hospitals to Haiti, the Philippines and Japan in recent years following natural disasters.
According to figures reported by CNN, Israel’s total official aid delegation, not counting several private aid groups, numbers 260 people, more than all the other aid efforts examined by CNN combined. The next-largest delegation registered by CNN, from the United Kingdom, numbers 68 people, followed by China’s 62, the US’s 54 and South Korea’s 40. Taiwan sent 20 personnel, Italy 15 and France 11.
The CNN figures did not include India, however, which sent a National Disaster Response Force numbering 450 people, according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In aid money, Israel performs rather less well. Leading the pack with funds intended to provide for emergency supplies and help sustain local rescue efforts came the United States with $10 million, followed by the UK with $5 million, Canada with $4.1m, Australia and Norway with $3.9 million each and the EU with $3.25m. Israel did not send money.
Israel is also a leading country in its efforts to rescue its stranded countrymen.
Some 2,000 Israelis were in Nepal when the quake struck Saturday. The vast majority have been rescued, with the remaining number estimated in the dozens and just one Israeli unaccounted for. Four planes were sent to airlift Israelis out, along with helicopters and jeeps rented for the effort, while a combination of IDF, insurance company-sponsored rescue teams and various volunteer groups helped reach nearly all the Israelis stranded in remote parts of the mountainous country.
In contrast, of 1,400 French citizens in the country when the quake struck, 676 remain unaccounted for. Some 550 Australians were in Nepal on Saturday; over 300 have not yet been located by authorities. Of 4,000 Chinese citizens, 683 are still unaccounted for.
* This article was updated on May 4 to include figures on the Indian disaster response force, the largest sent by any country.