A team of Israel volunteers has been dispatched to quake-struck Italy to help the country recover from last week’s devastating natural disaster, including building temporary shelters for hundreds of families left homeless by the temblor.
In a statement Sunday, the IsraeAID non-governmental group said it is building temporary housing camps, distributing food and other items, and providing grief counseling to families that lost relatives as well as to the Italian rescue teams, which suffer from burnout and acute stress.
A team of 20 volunteers is currently in the country, the first of whom arrived 24 hours after Wednesday’s earthquake, in which nearly 300 people were killed.
In the immediate aftermath of the 6.2-magnitude quake, which leveled towns in Italy’s mountainous center, burying thousands of people under rubble, Israeli officials offered to send search and rescue and recovery teams from the military, though the Italians have declined thus far to take Jerusalem up on the offer.
IsraAID works independent of the government and often sends volunteers to hard-hit disaster zones across the globe.
More than 1,800 aftershocks have rattled the region since Wednesday’s quake, keeping many from being able to return to their homes. Saturday night was the first night without a major aftershock.
At least 80 residents are now seeking safety in the community shelter, IsraAID noted.
IsraAID team member Mickey Noam Alon described how his team helped Gabriele Gabiza, an 82-year-old man from the town of Scai whose house was destroyed.
“Like hundreds of others, Gabiza was left stranded in the middle of the night, without shelter or a safe roof over his head. After hours of wandering through what remained of the streets, Gabiza headed to one of the community shelters that was erected within 24 hours of the quake. When I met him, he was clearly exhausted, shocked and confused…. Immediately an IsraAID team member helped him to find a place to sit, offered him a warm blanket and some water,” Alon said.
His neighbor, Luccia Di Stephano, who lives with her family next door, also came to the center, Alon said.
“Their house was also totally destroyed, but luckily everyone was able to escape safely.”
AFP contributed to this report.