The Justice Ministry ruled on Sunday that there was no reason to prevent four Nepalese surrogate mothers who are carrying babies for Israeli couples from evacuating to Israel to escape the destruction wrought by a major earthquake over the weekend that left over 2,000 people dead with fears the death toll could continue to rise.
Israeli parents-to-be had earlier put in a special request that the women be allowed to seek refuge in Israel as authorities in Nepal struggled to cope with the aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude quake that shook Kathmandu and the surrounding area.
According to a report from Israel Radio most of the women are in the 35th week of their pregnancies.
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan expressed support for the move but required approval from the Justice Ministry before authorizing the rescue journeys, the Hebrew language Walla news reported.
After concerns were raised over red tape — including a worry that relocating the women could constitute human trafficking — officials finally gave the go-ahead, saying that the transfer to Israel will significantly reduce the dangers to the women and the babies that they are carrying.
Some 25 babies born to Nepalese surrogates awaiting permission to leave to Israel were caught up in the earthquake, with one being severely injured in the temblor, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Officials are working to bring the babies and parents home.
An IDF medical delegation left later Sunday with 95 tons of equipment to set up a field hospital including a laboratory, X-ray machines, operating rooms, children’s treatment rooms and birthing facilities.
Some 260 people were to staff the facilities, among them IDF medical personnel, Home Front Command search and rescue units, and three dog handlers with rescue dogs. The flight was to follow an earlier detachment of seven IDF search and rescue experts who rushed out to Nepal overnight Saturday.
Saturday’s massive earthquake reached from Kathmandu to small villages, killing over 2,300 people, according to local officials.
The earthquake centered outside Kathmandu, the capital, was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in over 80 years.
It destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods of Kathmandu, and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China’s region of Tibet and Pakistan. By Sunday afternoon, authorities said the number of injured nationwide was upward of 5,000, and was expected to rise and rescuers worked to pull people and bodies out of the rubble.
No Israelis were known to be among the dead, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday evening, but the Foreign Ministry said some 200 were still unaccounted for in the Himalayan country popular with post-army backpackers. A number of Israelis sustained light injuries.
The Chabad house in Kathmandu, which was lightly damaged, reported Sunday that hundreds of Israelis had turned to the group for refuge following the earthquake.
The quake also reached to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts. At least 17 people died there and 61 were injured.
The Associated Press contributed to to this report.