Israeli disaster aid team to head to quake-hit Indonesia

Non-governmental organization IsraAID says workers will provide mental health support, conduct needs assessment in country with world’s largest Muslim population

A man stands under an umbrella in a neighborhood of Wani village on the outskirts of Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. (Dita Alangkara/AP)
A man stands under an umbrella in a neighborhood of Wani village on the outskirts of Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. (Dita Alangkara/AP)

A non-governmental Israeli aid group said Thursday it will send a team of disaster experts to Indonesia as the country recovers from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 1,400 people and left hundreds of thousands in need of assistance.

Israeli humanitarian aid NGO IsraAID said in a statement it will deploy an emergency response team to the island of Sulawesi.

IsraAID did not provide details on the size of its team or when they will arrive in Indonesia, which does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

“The team will distribute vital relief items, provide mental health support to vulnerable groups and conduct an initial needs assessment to determine immediate and long-term needs, including medical care, psychological support and safe water provision,” the organization said.

On Friday, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the island Sulawesi, in central Indonesia, and triggered a tsunami.

Almost 200,000 people are in need of urgent help, according to the United Nations, among them tens of thousands of children.

“The communities affected by this disaster need immediate support, as the full scale of destruction is only now becoming clear, with thousands experiencing the trauma and uncertainty of displacement and the tragic loss of loved ones,” IsraAID’s directors said in a the statement.

IsraAID has sent similar teams in the past to other disaster areas including the Philippines, Nepal, and Japan which suffered an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Israel sent water purifiers to the disaster-hit areas in Indonesia through the Red Cross, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster said Wednesday in a report unconfirmed by the Foreign Ministry. Asked by The Times of Israel several times since Friday’s quake whether Israel was going to send aid to Indonesia, the ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment. Subsequently asked why Israel was not sending aid, they again refused comment.

In the past, Israel has sent large delegations to disaster-stricken areas, and has offered to send help to countries with which it has no diplomatic relations.

Teams from the Israeli army provided rescue and medical services after an earthquake in Turkey in 1999, an earthquake in Haiti in 2010, a typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 and, most recently, an earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered aid to earthquake victims in Iran and Iraq, two countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations; those offers were rebuffed.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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