Netanyahu praises work of IDF rescue team in Mexico
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Netanyahu praises work of IDF rescue team in Mexico

Hours after second earthquake hits Central American country, PM says Israeli delegation’s assistance shows ‘the true Israel’

Illustrative: Israeli rescuers inspect damaged buildings in Alvaro Obregon, an area of Mexico City strongly affected by the September 19 earthquake, on September 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Luis Manuel Perez)
Illustrative: Israeli rescuers inspect damaged buildings in Alvaro Obregon, an area of Mexico City strongly affected by the September 19 earthquake, on September 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Luis Manuel Perez)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday spoke with the head of the Israeli rescue delegation in Mexico, hours after the country was struck by a second earthquake.

In his phone call with David Mizrachi, the head of the IDF mission, Netanyahu wished the soldiers a happy Jewish new year and said they were doing a “mitzvah” — a good deed — by assisting in the rescue efforts after the first earthquake earlier this week, in which over 300 people were killed.

“You are shining Israel’s light in the world, a big light,” he said. “It is important from a humanitarian standpoint and also to show the world the true Israel.”

“You are making the State of Israel very proud,” he said.

In addition to Mizrachi, Netanyahu also spoke with Israel’s Ambassador to Mexico Yoni Peled. The two updated Netanyahu on the efforts of the Israeli rescue team.

The 71-member Israeli delegation from the Home Front Command arrived in Mexico on Thursday, some 48 hours after the 7.1-magnitude quake hit. Two Israeli aid organizations — IsraAID and iAid — also sent delegations to help with the search and rescue efforts.

Israeli rescue workers inspect a piece of concrete in a building in Mexico City on September 23, 2017, four days after the powerful quake that hit central Mexico. (AFP Photo/Pedro Pardo)

On Friday, the Israeli rescue workers were greeted with spontaneous applause in the streets of a Mexican town, in a show of gratitude for the team’s efforts to aid in the search for survivors following a devastating earthquake Tuesday.

In a video published by Channel 2, dozens of individuals, some waving Mexican flags, can be seen cheering the Israeli rescue team as the delegation crosses their path in a town hit by the earthquake.

The Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday that the 71-member delegation was made up of a small search and rescue team, with a majority being engineers who would help assess the structural integrity of buildings in Mexico City and other affected areas.

Locals rescuers said the Israeli teams came with equipment enabling them to detect cell phone signals in the rubble.

Israel did not set up a field hospital yet, but the army has said this could be added in the future.

Israel is often one of the first countries to send humanitarian delegations to countries hit by natural disasters.

Israeli disaster relief delegations 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.

The delegation is slated to return on September 29, ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday, the spokesperson said. The IDF chief rabbi granted the delegation special dispensation to travel, as the team was in the air during the Jewish Rosh Hashanah holiday, when such activities are generally avoided under religious law.

Israeli rescuers take part in the search for survivors at a flattened building in Mexico City on September 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez)

On Saturday, a strong new earthquake shook Mexico, toppling already damaged homes and a highway bridge and causing new alarm in a country reeling from two even more powerful quakes this month that together have killed nearly 400 people.

The US Geological Survey said the new, magnitude 6.1 temblor was centered about 11 miles (18 kilometers) south-southeast of Matias Romero in the state of Oaxaca, which was the region most battered by a magnitude 8.1 quake on Sept. 7.

It was among thousands of aftershocks recorded in the wake of that earlier quake, which was the most powerful to hit Mexico in 32 years and killed at least 90 people.

Buildings swayed in Mexico City, where nerves are still raw from Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 temblor that has killed over 300 across the region. Many residents and visitors fled homes, hotels and businesses, some in tears.

At the Xoco General Hospital, which is treating the largest number of quake victims, workers ordered visitors to evacuate when seismic alarms began to blare.

Israeli Rescue workers look for survivors in Mexico City on September 23, 2017, four days after the powerful quake that hit central Mexico. (AFP Photo/Pedro Pardo)

Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said there were no reports of significant new damage in the capital, and rescue efforts related to Tuesday’s quake were continuing. He reported that two people died of apparent heart attacks during the new temblor.

At the site of an office building that collapsed Tuesday and where an around-the-clock search for survivors was still ongoing, rescuers briefly evacuated from atop the pile of rubble after the morning quake before returning to work.

As rescue operations stretched into Day 5, residents throughout the capital have held out hope that dozens still missing might be found alive. More than half the dead — 157 — perished in the capital, while another 73 died in the state of Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 13 in Mexico State, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

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