Stranded Israelis in Nepal say locals ‘growing violent’
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Stranded Israelis in Nepal say locals ‘growing violent’

Mass exodus from Kathmandu as death toll tops 4,000; food shortages, disease outbreaks feared; 50 Israelis still missing

Nepalese residents gather in an open space at the site of destruction caused after Saturday's earthquake in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Niranjan Shrestha)
Nepalese residents gather in an open space at the site of destruction caused after Saturday's earthquake in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Niranjan Shrestha)

Israeli hikers stranded in Nepal urged their parents on Monday afternoon to press the Foreign Ministry to accelerate rescue efforts, saying their lives were in immediate danger.

According to Channel 2, a group of hikers stranded in a decimated village sent an urgent appeal to their relatives, saying the local Nepalis had “grown violent” after the Israelis took food.

“We need to be rescued immediately. The local Nepalis have grown violent because we took food from a village that collapsed,” Shahar Zakai, who is with dozens of other Israelis, wrote to his brother.

Naama Shohat wrote to her mother that a hiker in her group is suffering from a head wound that is becoming infected, the Ynet news site reported. She described the area as hazardous and said there were boulders all around, and rockslides “every few minutes.”

“We can’t stay here, it’s very dangerous. We can’t move, all the roads are blocked,” she wrote.

Dozens of concerned parents protested outside the Foreign Ministry on Monday.

Earlier, four Israelis were rescued from the slopes of Mount Everest, where they had been trapped in the wake of the earthquake. Some 50 Israelis are still missing, according to Israeli officials.

Army Radio said a rescue team sent by Harel, an Israeli insurance company, brought the quartet to safety. All four were reported to be in good health.

Raw footage of the avalanche at the Everest base camp, in which 17 people were killed, was posted on Monday:

Mass exodus from Kathmandu

Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on Monday after an earthquake killed more than 4,000 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a “massive” aid operation.

With fears rising of food and water shortages, people were also rushing to stores and petrol stations to stock up on supplies in the capital, ripped apart by Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake.

And fears were rising of disease outbreaks among tens of thousands of traumatized survivors who have been camping out in parks and other open spaces in Kathmandu.

“Right now, it is important to prevent another disaster by taking precautions against an outbreak of diseases among the survivors,” army spokesman Arun Neupane told reporters.

Families were packing onto buses, some even sitting on the roofs, and into cars, to leave the city for their home villages to determine the extent of the damage there.

Mothers clutching their children and men hauling bags were seen bargaining with drivers of the many buses clogging the roads out of the capital.

The exodus came as international rescue teams with sniffer dogs raced to find survivors buried in rubble, and teams equipped with heavy cutting gear and relief supplies landed at the nation’s only international airport.

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Program, told AFP the agency would launch a “large, massive operation” with the first plane carrying rations set to arrive on Tuesday.

Israeli relief teams en route to Nepal

An Israeli 747 jet carrying 250 medical and rescue personnel and supplies, including a field hospital, lifted off from Ben Gurion Airport Monday afternoon for the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

A third plane, also a 747, was scheduled to take off at 10 p.m. Israel time.

The second plane saw its takeoff delayed due to problems getting landing approval in Kathmandu, where officials worked feverishly Monday to determine if large jets could land safely at the capital’s damaged international airport.

Fears are mounting over a bottleneck as countries rush to send aid to a country whose infrastructure was badly damaged and where aftershocks were still being felt late Sunday.

Meanwhile, a Magen David Adom plane landed Monday afternoon at Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov airport, carrying five babies born to Israeli couples through surrogate mothers. The children and parents were all reported in good health.

An IDF aid delegation prepares to board an air force plane for Nepal , April 27, 2015.  (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
An IDF aid delegation prepares to board an air force plane for Nepal , April 27, 2015. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

Nepal is a major destination for Israeli families seeking surrogate mothers to bear their children. Following Saturday’s disaster, families of 26 babies recently born to Israelis in the Asian nation appealed to the Israeli government to help bring their children to Israel as quickly as possible, citing the newborns’ fragile state and the current harsh conditions in Nepal, which could endanger them.

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan waived the usual bureaucratic hurdles to bringing the children into the country in the wake of the quake. The newborns are all expected to arrive with Israeli rescue missions in the next few days.

IDF aid delegation treats an infant in Nepal. (IDF Spokesperson)
IDF aid delegation treats an infant in Nepal. (IDF Spokesperson)

Two Israeli families are stuck in Kathmandu because their babies were born prematurely and were hospitalized in a Kathmandu hospital’s preemie wing. The babies were evacuated from the hospital during the quake and are now housed in a small private car in the hospital’s parking lot to which the medical equipment required for their survival was moved. The babies were reportedly in good condition Monday.

The parents refused to board a Magen David Adom plane that left Nepal Sunday night because it did not have on board the necessary equipment to ensure their children’s survival.

Three additional Israeli families with babies born through surrogate mothers in Nepal arrived in Israel late Sunday, landing at the Air Force’s Nevatim base and receiving initial medical care at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center. The babies are healthy, according to hospital authorities.

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan (2nd R) and Director of Magen David Adom Eli Bean (3rd R) greet parents carrying their newborn babies as they arrive in Israel, April 27, 2015. (MDA)
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan (2nd R) and Director of Magen David Adom Eli Bean (3rd R) greet parents carrying their newborn babies as they arrive in Israel, April 27, 2015. (MDA)

Omri Lanzet, a new father who landed in Israel with his newborn son Yonatan on Sunday night, told Ynet, “We had a baby just days old with us, and had no heat. The food and the diapers ran out.”

He urged the government to do all it that it could for the other families.

“The babies are the most vulnerable, and some of them were born prematurely. It’s neither the place nor the proper environment for a baby only a few days old,” he said.

On Sunday the Justice Ministry ruled that there was no reason to prevent four pregnant Nepalese surrogate mothers who were carrying babies for Israeli couples from evacuating to Israel.

Israeli parents-to-be had earlier put in a special request that the women be allowed to seek refuge in Israel.

The IDF team was to focus on search and rescue and on setting up a full field hospital, which will be operational within 12 hours of landing.

When Monday’s flight arrives, half the Israeli team will set up the field hospital — including operating rooms, X-ray equipment and pediatric care — to provide emergency medical services to the wounded. The other half will conduct search-and-rescue missions in collapsed buildings.

A soldier prepares equipment and supplies for the IDF's delegation to Nepal at the Tel Hashomer army base in Ramat Gan on April 26, 2015. (Photo credit: Gadi Yampel/IDF Spokesperson)
A soldier prepares equipment and supplies for the IDF’s delegation to Nepal, at the Tel Hashomer army base in Ramat Gan on April 26, 2015. (photo credit: Gadi Yampel/IDF Spokesperson)

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner expects Israel’s field hospital to be the first in operation in Nepal. In the past, the IDF has set up field hospitals following natural disasters in Haiti, the Philippines and Japan.

The field hospital will include “pediatric, surgical, internal medicine, neonatal, and radiology departments as well as a maternity ward and an emergency and operating room,” the IDF said in a statement.

A soldier prepares equipment and supplies for the IDF's delegation to Nepal at the Tel Hashomer army base in Ramat Gan on April 26, 2015. (Photo credit: Gadi Yampel/IDF Spokesperson)
A soldier prepares equipment and supplies for the IDF’s delegation to Nepal at the Tel Hashomer army base in Ramat Gan on April 26, 2015. (photo credit: Gadi Yampel/IDF Spokesperson)

Authorities have yet to establish contact with some 50 Israelis known to be in Nepal, the Foreign Ministry said Monday afternoon. The figure is down from 150 on Sunday.

Many of the Israelis are hiking in far-flung mountains in the Himalayan nation, areas where Nepalese authorities have yet to establish contact with entire villages believed damaged in the wake of Saturday’s earthquake.

The Foreign Ministry has said it believes the Israelis are likely okay, but unable to communicate with the outside world due to electrical outages and bad weather throughout Nepal.

Mark Sofer, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for Asia and the Pacific, is in Kathmandu to oversee Israel’s efforts to locate and rescue the stranded Israelis.

Loading an aircraft with rescue equipment at Ben Gurion International Airport, as the IDF aid delegation prepares to board a plane to Nepal. April 27, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson)
Loading an aircraft with rescue equipment at Ben Gurion International Airport, as the IDF aid delegation prepares to board a plane to Nepal. April 27, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson)

A group of families and friends of Israeli hikers stranded in Nepal was demonstrating Monday afternoon in front of the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem. The demonstration called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to increase efforts to rescue the missing Israelis, including dozens believed to be in the Gosaikunda lake area, a favorite destination for Israeli backpackers.

Foreign Ministry Director Nissim Ben Sheetrit met with the demonstrators.

The earthquake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years. It destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods of Kathmandu and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China’s region of Tibet and Pakistan.

AP contributed to this report.

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