Body of Israeli hiker Asraf retrieved in Nepal
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Body of Israeli hiker Asraf retrieved in Nepal

Remains of only Israeli casualty from earthquake flown to Kathmandu; will be brought to Israel for burial on Tuesday

Patrick Asraf (L) and his son Or (R) who went missing in Nepal following the April 25 earthquake that has killed thousands in the Asian nation (Photo credit: Channel 2 news)
Patrick Asraf (L) and his son Or (R) who went missing in Nepal following the April 25 earthquake that has killed thousands in the Asian nation (Photo credit: Channel 2 news)

Israeli rescue teams on Monday morning retrieved the body of the 22-year-old Israeli hiker who was killed in Nepal’s devastating earthquake over a week earlier.

Or Asraf’s remains were airlifted from a remote village in the Langtang village to Kathmandu, and will be flown Tuesday to Israel.

A member of the Israeli team that found his remains, Oren Morgan, told Israel Radio that several European hikers were also killed in the area.

He said evidence collected during the search for Asraf was handed over to the UN base in Nepal in order to form a better understanding of what happened to hikers from around the world who were declared missing following the earthquake.

Asraf, 22, was the only Israeli fatality from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which flattened villages and killed over 7,000, according to Nepalese authorities.

His body was found Sunday night by an Israeli rescue team after his father and members of his former Israeli army unit joined the search effort.

Reuven Shador, a member of the relief team, told Hebrew media the group landed in a chopper “and identified a rockslide.”

Or Asraf seen in the Himalayas. (Screen capture: Channel 2 via Facebook)
Or Asraf seen in the Himalayas. (Screen capture: Channel 2 via Facebook)

“A few minutes later, we found pants and a fabric belt, in the pocket there was a map with Hebrew writing on it,” he said. “We had no doubt we found Or. We discovered his body several meters away in a hard-to-reach area. In a dangerous operation, which included rapelling, we brought the body up the mountain.”

Several members of Asraf’s family were in Kathamandu to receive his remains and were taking care of burial arrangements in Israel.

Members of the relief team that recovered Asraf’s remains on Sunday included nine of his friends from the IDF Egoz unit. His friends carried him across dangerous terrain, hit hard by the earthquake, to the nearest village on Sunday night.

In an emotional meeting at the airport in Kathmandu, Patrick Asraf embraced his son’s friends and thanked them for helping bring Or’s body home.

Asraf was located in Nepal early Sunday morning, an Israeli relief team announced, over a week after he disappeared.

Relatives, friends and rescuers had held out hope of finding Asraf alive, but a statement from the ZAKA emergency organization said his body had been located on the Langtang ridge, in an area popular with hikers north of Kathmandu.

“We regret to report that during the morning hours the team located a body identified as Or Asraf’s. The complex rescue operation will likely take place tomorrow morning,” the group stated on its Twitter account.

The family of 22-year-old Israeli trekker Or Asraf speaks to the press following the news that Or's body had been found in Nepal on May 03, 2015. (Photo credit: FLASH90)
The family of 22-year-old Israeli trekker Or Asraf speaks to the press following the news that Or’s body had been found in Nepal on May 03, 2015. (Photo credit: FLASH90)

The Asraf family on Sunday night issued a statement, saying it is mourning “its beloved son, the salt of the earth,” and thanked the Israeli government for the efforts to locate Or.

“Patrick and Orit Asraf, Or’s father and mother, promised to bring him home and kept their promise,” the family said.

ZAKA arrived in Nepal last week in a joint task force along with Israeli rescue organizations United Hatzalah and F.I.R.S.T. to assist in the rescue efforts and attempt to locate Asraf, the last Israeli citizen who remained out of contact since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the Himalayan nation.

Asraf’s body was located on a trekking route in the Langtang region, according Eli Beer, president of United Hatzalah.

Beer said the team had combated rough terrain and mudslides while heavy rain and hail poured down in their efforts to locate the body.

Nitay Reysh, a member of the rescue team that located the body, said two helicopters had headed back towards the region Saturday morning to redouble search efforts, carrying Or’s army friends.

“His friends identified him. They were with him for three years and know every inch of his body,” Reysh told Ynet.

“We are incredibly saddened that our efforts ended in this way. In all the days of searching for Or, we had the hope of finding him alive and bringing him back to his family,” Beer stated.

“Despite our efforts, when we found Or he was no longer alive. We take comfort in the fact that thanks to our volunteers’ efforts, Or will be buried in Israel.”

Asraf, an army veteran injured in last year’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, was hiking in the Langtang area north of the capital Kathmandu when the quake struck.

He had opted to walk ahead of the group he was with, unaccompanied, about an hour before the earthquake.

A helicopter searching for Israeli trekkers in the Langtang region of Nepal. ( photo credit: Chabad.org/Chabad of Nepal)
A helicopter searching for Israeli trekkers in the Langtang region of Nepal. ( photo credit: Chabad.org/Chabad of Nepal)

The official death toll for Nepal rose to 7,365 on Monday, with some 14,000 injured, though authorities warned the final tally would be much higher.

More than 100 people were also killed in neighboring India and China.

Nepal police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam said 57 foreigners were known to have died while 112 were still missing. Many were in Langtang when the quake struck.

Or's mother, Orit, holds up a banner reading "Who saw Or Asraf in the Langtang region?" as families wait for relatives who returned from Nepal on April 28, 2015, at Ben Gurion Airport (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
Or’s mother, Orit, holds up a banner reading “Who saw Or Asraf in the Langtang region?” as families wait for relatives who returned from Nepal on April 28, 2015, at Ben Gurion Airport (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The quake, which was the deadliest in Nepal for more than 80 years, devastated vast swaths of the country when it erupted around midday last Saturday and reduced much of the capital Kathmandu to ruins.

Jonathan Beck and AFP contributed to this report.

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