‘How much longer until they rescue us?’

Israeli trekkers trapped in remote areas of Nepal send distress signals to their family members asking for help

April 27, 2015 21:52
2 minute read.
Families of stranded trekkers press Israeli officials to bring their children home from Nepal

Families of stranded trekkers press Israeli officials to bring their children home from Nepal. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

“It is not possible to stay here. It is very dangerous. All the roads are blocked,” Na’ama Shohat told her mother in a satellite message she sent Monday from the area of the Frozen Lakes in Langtang, Nepal.

Shohat and six friends had been hiking in that area when a massive earthquake struck their region of Nepal on Saturday, followed by smaller aftershocks.

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“There are cliffs on all sides and landslides,” she said, and explained that a member of their group suffered from a head wound. “Mother, how much longer until they rescue us?” she asked.

According to the Foreign Ministry, their group are among 68 Israelis whose whereabouts are known, but for whom the damage from the earthquake has made it impossible to leave the isolated areas where they were trekking.

In many cases, these individuals can only be rescued by helicopter, but very few are available and weather conditions have made such a mission almost impossible.

A number of the families of these stranded trekkers met Monday afternoon at the Foreign Ministry to press Israeli officials to do more to bring their children home.

Assurances by the ministry’s Director- General Nissim Ben-Shitrit that everything possible had been done and that millions of shekels had been spent on rescue efforts did little to relieve their anxiety.

Sharon Shavit, whose daughter Shahar, 22, is with Shohat said that initially the group had notified their parents that they had survived the earthquake and explained that they were outside a guest house and had built a fire. It was only in the second message that they begged for help.

There has been no follow-up message since, according to Shavit. “If they have to spend another night in the field I am not certain what will happen,” she said.

Similarly Ido Veg heard from his younger sister, Tamar, 23, who is traveling with nine other Israelis in the area of Langtang.

He has not spoken to her since the earthquake, but someone in her group managed to send a satellite message to a parent with information that everyone in their party was fine but that all paths out of the area were blocked.

The tone changed just a day later, when a second message from the trekkers said they had a tent to sleep in but food for only two days.

“They are next to a village that was totally destroyed,” Veg said.

At night, someone is always awake watching over the others so quake survivors won’t steal what they have, he explained. It’s true, he said, that they have warm clothes, but added that there is heavy rain and “their food is about to finish.”

“They are in a situation where everyone around them worries for themselves and we are worried for her,” Veg said.

The families of the stranded Israeli trekkers have been bounced between the Foreign Ministry and their insurance companies, which have representatives on the ground and also are working on rescue efforts.

Veg said he knows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent a message to his Nepalese counterpart, but questioned why he has not spoken publicly about the importance of rescuing these particular trekkers.

“We have not seen the prime minister interviewed on the subject,” Veg said. His more basic question, however, is not about politics, but simply about how to save his sister.

“Who is getting my sister out?” he asked.

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