PM: Gov't is working with NZ to find missing Israelis

Whereabouts of Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel are still unknown; body of Israeli identified as death toll from quake reaches 146.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 27, 2011 11:13
2 minute read.
Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel

missing israelis new zealand 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Shortly after the body of Ofer Mizrahi, the Israeli killed in the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake, was identified on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that the Israeli government is in contact with its counterparts in New Zealand.

"We are working with the government of New Zealand, via the Foreign Ministry, to locate those who are missing and to provide assistance, such as I have offered to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, to help New Zealand overcome this crisis," Netanyahu announced in Sunday's cabinet meeting. "They have requested certain equipment; we are holding discussions with them today. The Foreign Ministry is in contact with them in order to see what we can send.  We would like to accelerate efforts to search for the two missing Israelis.  I intend to speak with Prime Minister Key today in order to advance these two issues."

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Israelis Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel, both 22 years old, have not been found. The two were last spotted 20 minutes before the earthquake, on the corner of Antigua St. and Moorehouse Ave. in Christchurch.

Levy's sister, Dafi Levy, asked that anyone with information about the backpackers' whereabouts contact her at [email protected] Levy said that she is sure the two did not survive the earthquake, but that information as to where they went in the 20 minutes before the disaster would help locate their bodies.

Engineers and planners said the city's decimated central area may be completely unusable for months to come and that at least a third of the buildings must be razed and rebuilt after last Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake.

The death toll from the quake reached 146 Sunday, and Police Superintendent David Cliff said that "certainly we expect that number to continue to rise."

"There are more than 200 people missing in the worst-damaged parts of the city," he told reporters.

His comments suggest the eventual death toll could make this New Zealand's deadliest disaster ever. Currently, the country's worst disaster was the 1931 Napier earthquake on North Island in which at least 256 people died.

Earlier, Police Inspector Russell Gibson said rescuers had spotted more bodies in the wreckage which likely would be retrieved Sunday.

The multinational team of more than 600 rescuers scrabbling through wrecked buildings in the central city last pulled a survivor from the ruins at mid-afternoon Wednesday, making it nearly four days without finding anyone alive.

AP contributed to this report.


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