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Plane brings home 7 injured Israelis from Nepal disaster

Patients fully conscious, suffering from frostbite; avalanche death toll hits 43

Eitan Idan, an Israeli Himalayan snowstorm survivor (second from the left), is treated for frostbite, looks on from a chartered bus as he is discharged from a hospital before heading to the airport in Kathmandu on October 18, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Prakash MATHEMA)
Eitan Idan, an Israeli Himalayan snowstorm survivor (second from the left), is treated for frostbite, looks on from a chartered bus as he is discharged from a hospital before heading to the airport in Kathmandu on October 18, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Prakash MATHEMA)

A private jet carrying seven Israelis injured in the trekking disaster in Nepal’s Himalayas landed in Lod’s Ben Gurion Airport early Sunday morning.

The plane, donated by an Israel businessman, flew out of Kathmandu.

“We received the injured fully conscious, most suffering from various levels of frostbite on different parts of their bodies,” said Magen David Adom official Lior Altman, according to Ynet. “We transferred them in ambulances for continuing treatment in Hadassah- Ein Kerem and Tel Hashomer hospitals.”

“The injured patients are cooperating,” he added, “and we can see that they went through a difficult incident there, both mentally and physically.”

The death toll from the devastating snowstorm climbed to 43 on Saturday. Officials said on Saturday that 11 more bodies had been found, bringing to 43 the number of those known to have died — with fears that more bodies could be lying under heavy snowdrifts and ice.

“We have located the bodies of nine Nepalese people on the border between Dolpo and Mustang districts,” said Keshav Pandey of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), an industry body organizing search-and-rescue efforts.

“We have also recovered the bodies of two Japanese tourists at the Thorong La mountain pass.”

Israeli backpackers who survived the disaster in Nepal told Channel 10 that the situation on the ground is “chaotic” and that the Nepalese airlines are refusing to let Israelis stuck in Nepal fly back sooner.

“We feel that it’s all disorganized, there’s a lot of chaos,” Maya Orah told Channel 10. “Even those of us who weren’t physically injured were emotionally hurt. We were in hell, we saw the bodies of our friends lying [dead]. No one has sent us any of us psychological help.”

Tuesday’s storm, which triggered avalanches, struck at the height of the trekking season, catching hikers unaware on their way up to an exposed high mountain pass along the scenic Annapurna Circuit route.

The head of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem’s trauma and emergency medicine department, Dr. Avi Rivkind, and Dr. Julius Golender will fly to Nepal to treat and help fly other injured Israelis back home.

At least 19 of the dead are tourists, from countries including Canada, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, India and Vietnam. Three Israelis, Agam Luria, Nadav Shoham and Tamar Ariel, died in the blizzard and avalanche. Shoham’s remains were to be flown back to Israel for burial on Saturday evening, and those of Luria and Ariel were expected Monday.

At least 40 Israeli tourists in Nepal remain unaccounted for, including one backpacker — Michal Cherkasky, 36, from the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim — who was in the area of the blizzard.

Four days after the blizzard hit, all surviving trekkers who were left stranded are now believed to be safe, officials said, with 385 people rescued after frantic calls for help.

“We have not received any further calls for rescue or for information about stranded people,” said Binay Acharya of TAAN.

“We understand all remaining trekkers in the region are safe.”

The focus has now shifted from rescue to the grim prospect of retrieving more bodies feared to be lying on the popular trekking route, which goes as high as 5,416 meters (17,769 feet).

Nepalese army choppers circled the upper reaches of the popular trekking region to locate bodies on Saturday, while officials arranged to fly in a team of experts from Kathmandu to assist with the operation.

The dead include at least 26 hikers, guides and porters on the trekking circuit, three yak herders, and five people who were climbing a nearby mountain.

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