IDF hospital in Nepal treats over 200, search resumes for Or Asraf

Israeli doctors perform 15 life-saving surgeries on wounded Nepalese; 2 helicopters set out to find last missing Israeli

A Nepalese boy is treated by an Israeli army medic at the Israeli field hospital in Kathmandu on April 30, 2015. (AFP/ MENAHEM KAHANA)
A Nepalese boy is treated by an Israeli army medic at the Israeli field hospital in Kathmandu on April 30, 2015. (AFP/ MENAHEM KAHANA)

The Israeli field hospital in Nepal has treated over 200 patients since opening its doors Wednesday morning, with medical staff performing several complicated surgeries on wounded victims of Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake and doctors delivering three babies so far.

According to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry, 246 people were received at the IDF field hospital where doctors performed some 15 life-saving surgeries. Israeli medical staff were also assisting in local Nepalese hospitals, primarily in surgical departments, the ministry said.

Over 250 doctors and rescue personnel were part of an IDF delegation that arrived Tuesday in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, in the wake of Saturday’s earthquake that devastated large swaths of the mountainous country.

The Israeli group — the second largest in manpower of any international aid team after India — set up the field hospital with 60 beds, including an obstetrics department, and was operating in coordination with the local army hospital.

In Israel on Friday, 150 Nepalese agriculture students at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee held a ceremony to commemorate their countrymen and women who died in the earthquake, Israel Radio reported. The ceremony was attended by the Nepalese ambassador to Israel and college staff. Several of the students have not yet been able to make contact with their families in Nepal since the natural disaster hit, according to the report.

Meanwhile, search efforts resumed Friday morning for Or Asraf, Israel’s last missing national who was last heard from before Saturday’s earthquake.

Two helicopters set out Friday for the Langtang area where Asraf was traveling when the quake hit. Rescue teams were on board both choppers.

Asraf’s father joined the search team on Thursday morning — five days after the trekker went missing in the wake of the earthquake — but poor weather forced them to end the day’s search by Thursday afternoon, Israel Radio reported.

Asraf promised to find his son and bring him home.

“I will come back to Israel with Or. I will stay here until I find him,” Patrick Asraf told NRG. He expressed a fear that his son may be hurt and there was not much time to find him.

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

Though there have been reports by Israelis in Nepal who may have seen Asraf approximately an hour after the initial quake in the Langtang region, the IDF veteran who fought in Operation Protective Edge has not been heard from since. According to Israel Radio, Asraf opted to hike ahead of the group he was with, unaccompanied, about an hour before the earthquake hit last Saturday.

Hilik Magnus, the head of Magnus International Search and Rescue, said that one of his team leaders in Nepal, Amit Rubin, is heading a rescue operation to find Asraf.

The team believes, based on Asraf’s itinerary and the time of the earthquake, that he is within a four-kilometer range of Bamboo, a village in the Langtang Valley at approximately 2,000 meters elevation.

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The problem with the area, Magnus said, is that the earthquake triggered massive landslides, obliterating the trail and making it exceptionally difficult to navigate across the steep slopes.

Asraf carried an SOS satellite device capable of emitting a traceable signal but has not turned it on, Magnus said.

His friends from the Egoz army unit in which he served have landed in Nepal and are assisting the search and rescue team. Rescue services in the area, however, do not see this step as necessarily helpful.

Members of the IDF delegation to Nepal and Magnus’ organization are specially trained in search and rescue techniques, something Asraf’s former unit — elite as it may be — is not as familiar with.

Magnus called their participation “a double-edged sword” because while their devotion to their friend is heartwarming, at times the additional personnel are also a burden for the rescue professional.

Israeli rescue teams were also slated to extract the remaining trekkers stranded in hard-to-reach areas on Friday morning. Dozens of Israeli backpackers have already been rescued from the remote mountainous region just north of Kathmandu.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, to thank him for “the assistance of Indian helicopters in rescuing Israelis and for Israeli planes’ landing in Indian territory.”

Netanyahu told Modi that major efforts were now being made to locate Asraf and thanked him “for his willingness to aid in the search effort.” The Israeli leader also conveyed his condolences to the Indian people for the losses suffered in the recent quake. Modi thanked Netanyahu in a widely shared post on Twitter.

A Hercules transport plane landed in Mumbai Thursday evening, where it loaded supplies for Kathmandu, according to the Foreign Ministry.

After delivering that equipment, the plane returned to India with members of the IDF’s Homefront Command in Nepal. If there is enough room, the ministry said, some of the approximately 60 Israeli citizens still in Kathmandu were also to travel on that flight.

The National Emergency Operations Center said Friday the death toll has risen to 6,259. A further 13,932 people were injured in Saturday’s quake, added the center. More than 100 people in neighboring India and China also died in the quake, officials said.

Nepal’s government announced Friday that it will be giving out 100,000 rupees ($1,000) to families of each of those killed in Saturday’s earthquake, and another 40,000 rupees ($400) for funeral costs.

AFP and AP contributed to this report.

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