Israel will likely send a new aid team to Nepal after a fresh earthquake rocked the country Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said while greeting a returning Israeli delegation from the ravaged country.
Netanyahu was speaking at Ben-Gurion airport as he welcomed home a 260-member army team of medics and search and rescue experts who had spent 14 days in Nepal following an initial quake on April 25.
“I am certain that you are already prepared for the next mission, wherever it may be needed, and it appears, according to the news, that this next mission is already in front of us,” Netanyahu said.
“I told the Nepali ambassador just a few minutes ago that we are prepared to the best of our abilities to help now too. I hope that they will not need you, but if they do, we know – and the world is beginning to know – that we can count on you.”
The Himalayan countryside was hit by major earthquake on Tuesday, killing at least 42 people, triggering landslides and toppling buildings.
The 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck near the Chinese border between the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu and Mount Everest in the early afternoon local Nepal time, 17 days after a 7.8 temblor that left more than 8,000 people dead in the country.
The Israel Defense Forces’ aid team closed its field hospital in Kathmandu earlier this week, after treating some 1,600 people over the course of its operation, including 85 surgeries and eight infant deliveries.
“Israel is a small state with a huge heart,” Netanyahu told the returning delegation. “UN figures show that we are the state that sent to Nepal the second-largest delegation in the world. Members of the delegation, we are proud of you.”
The international airport in Kathmandu, which has become a transport hub for international aid, was closed temporarily on Tuesday afternoon following the quake.
It was not clear if and when Israel would dispatch its team again, nor what kind of medical supplies or personnel it would comprise.
IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said he was not sure if the IDF would send another delegation back to Nepal in light of the recent quake.
Nepalese have been terrified by dozens of aftershocks that followed the April 25 quake. The impoverished country has appealed for billions of dollars in aid from foreign nations, as well as medical experts to treat the wounded and helicopters to ferry food and temporary shelters to hundreds of thousands left homeless amid unseasonal rains.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report