japan earthquake 2_311 reuters.
(photo credit: KYODO Kyodo / Reuters)
A civilian Israeli search and rescue team was to leave for Japan on Sunday
morning to help victims of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami that
struck the island nation on Friday.
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Six Israelis – five business people
and a tourist – remained unaccounted for on Saturday night, according to a
Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The spokesman said there were enormous
problems with the communications system in Japan as a result of the earthquake,
and that it was possible the six Israelis had been trying to call
While the telecommunications system was badly damaged, it is
possible to make contact via e-mail, and the embassy – relying on a recently
drawn-up list of the few hundred Israelis who live in Japan – succeeded in
making contact with the vast majority of them. On Friday afternoon the number of
Israelis who had not yet been contacted stood at 28, a number that dropped to
six in 24 hours.
There are also believed to be 300- 400 Israeli tourists
in the country.
Israel was one of around 45 countries that offered the
Japanese assistance, proffering help in identifying victims of the earthquake
and in providing water sanitation systems.
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The Japanese have not yet said
that they need the help.
IsraAID-First, an Israeli humanitarian umbrella
group organizing the search and rescue team, said it would reach Japan by way of
South Korea, and join Japanese teams already in action.
six medical professionals and people specializing in search and rescue,” Shachar
Zehavi, the head of IsraAid, said. “Many of these people were members of the
Israel Defense Forces search and rescue team in the past.”
the delegation would land in either Tokyo or Osaka and be deployed in a yet to
be determined area chosen by Japanese authorities.
“It all depends on how
things develop in the field, but there are more teams waiting here in Israel,”
he said. “One of their main needs will be issues of water
But the Japanese so far are dealing with it very well, with
a lot of professionalism.”
Over the weekend, Jewish groups around the
world expressed solidarity with the people of Japan in their time of
“The destructive power of the huge earthquake that slammed Japan
is incalculable, but this crisis challenges us who can act to respond,” American
Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said.
partner, often is one of the first nongovernmental groups to reach the disaster
and provide urgently needed assistance.”
Several Diaspora organizations
have launched fund-raising efforts to help. The Jewish Federations of North
America announced it was opening a website to collect money to help victims in
Japan and the Pacific rim.
“The Jewish Federations send our deepest
sympathy to people affected by this terrible event,” said Fred Zimmerman,
chairman of JFNA’s Emergency Committee. “We are determined to provide emergency
relief as quickly as possible and to work with our partners to provide support
over the longer term as well.”
Earlier, the American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee announced it was collecting money for relief efforts and
had reached out to the Japanese government to offer its expertise in earthquake
and tsunami- related response.
“Our prayers and sympathies go out to the
families of those lost in the earthquake in Japan; and as we have before in
Haiti [after the earthquake there in January 2010] and in nations struck by the
Indian Ocean tsunami [of December 2004], JDC will leverage its disaster relief
expertise and strong partnerships in the region to react swiftly and
sympathetically to the needs of victims,” said Steven Schwager, JDC’s chief
Two teams from the ZAKA rescue and recovery
organization were set to depart from Israel and Hong Kong after the conclusion
of Shabbat in their respective locations to help in rescue efforts.
teams decided to go after consulting with the Foreign Ministry and with Chabad
in Japan, ZAKA said in a statement. They expected to be met upon arrival by
Israeli Ambassador Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, according to the statement.
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