PM asks to upgrade rescue mission to New Zealand

8 Israeli policemen arrive in Christchurch to assist with rescue efforts; Vilna'i may oversee unofficial delegation.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, MELANIE LIDMAN
February 28, 2011 16:12
1 minute read.
Netanyahu

Netanyahu 311 reuters. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he spoke again to the prime minister of New Zealand on Monday and told him that he had asked Homeland Minister Security Matan Vilna’i – who happens to be visiting Australia – to go there and head Israel’s so-far unofficial delegation.

Speaking at a Likud faction meeting, the prime minister said that he asked New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to allow the delegation to be upgraded to an official one and to help in the effort to find two Israelis still unaccounted for after last week’s Christchurch earthquake that left over 150 people dead. Additionally, the prime minister requested permission to use cellular data and tracking technologies to locate the two backpackers.

Israel has prepared a planeload of supplies to send to New Zealand but it has not departed.

Early on Monday, eight policemen from various branches of the Israel Police arrived in Christchurch to help with rescue and recovery efforts. The police left on Saturday night with the full cooperation of the New Zealand’s prime minister and Foreign Ministry, police spokesman Ch.-Supt. Micky Rosenfeld said.

The policemen include the head of the force’s forensics department and an expert in DNA identification, as well as representatives from investigation and intelligence departments. The officers will work in various crisis capacities in conjunction with authorities in Christchurch, looking for survivors and helping with investigations.

Rosenfeld said emergency services were still holding out hope of finding survivors after February 22’s earthquake.

“People have been found up to two weeks afterwards, you never know what potholes exist under the rubble,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

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