IsraAID deploys a response team to the Bahamas

‘Our heart goes out to them, and we would do whatever is possible to help’

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September 4, 2019 23:48
2 minute read.
IsraAID deploys a response team to the Bahamas

Handout photo of Hurricane Dorian is shown as it nears St. Thomas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (photo credit: NASA WORLDVIEW AND EOSDIS/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – At least seven people have died in Hurricane Dorian, officials confirmed Wednesday, and the number is expected to rise. The hurricane stalled over Grand Bahama Island for nearly two days, leaving entire neighborhoods, as well as airports and hospitals, submerged. At least 13,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.

IsraAID, the Israel-based humanitarian aid agency that responds to emergency crises and engages in international development around the world, decided Tuesday that it would send emergency support to the Bahamas.

“We have been following this hurricane for two weeks,” Yotam Polizer, IsraAID’s co-CEO, told The Jerusalem Post. “Our emergency response team is ready and includes trauma experts, water engineers and disaster specialists. We reached out to the local government and organizations and got a description of the needs on the ground.”

He told the Post that the first team would include five experts and will arrive in the Bahamas by Thursday to assess the situation and provide immediate relief. After the initial evaluation, a new group of experts will join the team.

“The main challenge is to reach the area of the disaster,” Polizer said. “We will try to understand in which spot there is the greatest need for help, and we will send our guys there.

“We intend to work in full cooperation with the local government and to show solidarity with the Bahamas. Our heart goes out to them, and we would do whatever is possible to help.”

He added that the organization will not hand out food but will provide emergency equipment such as water filters, blankets and tents.

“Almost 50% of the population lost their houses, and people need a place to sleep,” Polizer said.

The co-CEO added that IsraAID’s work is unique because the organization provides long-term relief and assistance. “After the earthquake in Haiti, we stayed there for eight years,” he said. “We still have a team in Puerto Rico today.”

IsrAID has sent Israeli experts to 51 countries in both emergency response situations and long-term assignments, according to Polizer. “We are responding not only to natural events but also to human-made disasters, such as the refugee crisis in Syria.”

B’nai B’rith International is also assisting those affected by Dorian through its Disaster Relief Fund. The fund, which is currently accepting donations, will support local recovery and rebuilding teams, the group said in a statement.

Rabbi Sholom and Sheera Bluming, co-directors of Chabad of the Bahamas in Nassau, have been in touch with the Jewish community in Nassau, which was relatively unscathed by the hurricane. However, they have not been able to reach some of those living on Abaco, who remain unaccounted for, according to Chabad.org.

The rabbi said that about 1,000 Jewish expats have made their home in the Bahamas and that more than 100,000 Jews visit the islands each year.

The Blumings have joined the official government relief effort, calling on the international Jewish community to help. The family is coordinating a shipment of supplies from South Florida, which will include food, drinking water and mosquito nets for Abaco.

As of Wednesday morning, the hurricane, now a Category 2 storm, remained about 160 km. (100 miles) off Florida’s east coast and moving toward Georgia. Experts say it could hit the coasts of South and North Carolina on Thursday and Friday. Storm surge warnings are in place up and down the coast.

JTA contributed to this report.


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