Israeli planes bring home babies born in quake-struck Nepal

The plane carried a number of wounded Israelis and premature babies of Israeli parents who were born to surrogate Nepalese mothers.

April 27, 2015 05:51

IAF plane carrying survivors of Nepal quake lands in Israel

IAF plane carrying survivors of Nepal quake lands in Israel


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Two planes that carried Israelis rescued from the earthquake in Nepal landed in Israel on Monday.

Five other flights flew to Kathmandu on Monday with Israeli rescue teams, IDF soldiers and medical personnel to help Nepal, which is still devastated by the 7.9 magnitude quake that struck on Saturday, killing over 3,300 people. Since then additional damage has been caused by a series of after shocks.

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A small IAF plane was the first carrier to arrive back in Israel from Nepal. It landed at a military base early Monday. On board were a number of wounded Israelis and premature babies of Israeli parents who were born to surrogate Nepalese mothers.

A Magen David Adom plane with five more babies born to surrogate mothers and their Israeli families landed at Sde Dov Airport at noon on Monday. Over a dozen such babies still need to be airlifted home.

Photo: Ben Hartman

Three IAF Hercules planes left for Nepal on Monday as did two El Al jumbo jets with missions jointly organized by the IDF and the Foreign Ministry.

The large carriers with 260 personnel on board also transported 95 tons of equipment including a field hospital with a ward for premature babies. Rescuers brought with them cutting equipment, electronic devices to help find victims trapped under the rubble, generators, lighting equipment, and more.

When the large planes leave Nepal they hope to carry some of the100 Israelis in the Chabad House in Kathmandu and another 150 who have sought refuge in the Israeli Embassy.

Since Saturday the Foreign Ministry has helped locate 150 missing Israelis, but there are still 100 who are unaccounted for.

Israel is also working with the Nepalese government to send helicopters to more remote areas, such as the Frozen Lakes, to find stranded Israelis who were in the midst of treks when the quake struck.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the delegation headed by Col. Yoram Laredo, who told Netanyahu that an advance team had already landed and was preparing the infrastructure for the arrival of their larger mission.

Netanyahu said, “You are being sent on an important mission. This is the true face of Israel – a country that offers aid over any distance at such moments. Good luck. We are counting on you.”

Several hours later, Dr. Rafi Strugo, director of MDA’s medical division told The Jerusalem Post that he and another physician and 10 paramedics had just arrived at the Kathmandu airport on a plane from Israel.

“We landed at night, so we couldn’t see very much from the air, but there were some lights below,” he said. “From the ground, the airport looks okay. We will now divide up between the Israel Embassy and Chabad house and expect to be here for at least a week.”

A delegation of Israeli emergency workers headed to Nepal. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

The MDA team will provide triage-style emergency first aid to the injured, wherever they are located; create a first-aid station where MDA can provide treatment for the first 48 hours by providing painkillers, antibiotics, bandages and preparing severely injured victims for transport to area hospitals; and help the “second wave” of victims – those who arrive three or four days later – by opening and operating a field hospital.

MDA officials said its medical delegation flew directly to Kathmandu to set up a base to help the Israelis and the locals.

The situation is complicated by avalanches and aftershocks.

The delegation includes doctors, paramedics and logistical experts who brought with them drugs and medical equipment including incubators and baby food.

The MDA team includes a wide range of experts with disaster-response experience in Japan, Haiti and the Philippines.

A primary focus will be setting up local aid stations in outlying regions as well as extricating and evacuating victims to the stations.

It is also working to help return some two dozen Israeli couples, most of them homosexuals, who went to Nepal to have a baby via a woman surrogate.

The pregnant women and the newborns, including premature babies, have to be helped and brought back from areas devastated by the quake.

MDA has opened a fund for donations to help the locals and contributions can be sent to a special bank account – Survivors of the Nepal Earthquake at Bank Discount (#11), Yad Eliahu Branch (151), account number 22016.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has sent a first shipment of medications and medical supplies worth $175,000 to Nepal. The organization said this would cover the needs of 40,000 people for three months.

Other than the injured, those rendered homeless by the earthquake are in need of immediate support for regular public health services, water and sanitation and psychological and social support to deal with the trauma caused by the tragedy, the WHO said.

In addition to Israel, teams from India, Pakistan, the United States and China were already on the spot to help, according to the UN.

Other international search teams are scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu, with units from Japan, the US and Britain equipped with sniffer dogs and equipment for heavy lifting.

At least 6,000 people have been injured, according to the Nepalese government, and treating them and other survivors who are pulled from the wreckage remains a serious challenge.

“The priority remains saving lives and immediate search and rescue ongoing,” said a report from the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Nepal.

Thousands of people in Kathmandu remained outside on Sunday in chilly temperatures and patchy rain, too afraid to return to their homes damaged by earthquake.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake, the strongest since 1934 when a similar intensity quake killed more than 10,000 people, struck the densely populated Kathmandu Valley on Saturday noon local time.

There has been widespread damage and destruction of buildings, roads and other infrastructure, said aid workers, adding that more than 60 aftershocks, including a 6.7 magnitude quake on Sunday, had led to further devastation.

The first 96 hours after the quake were critical, they said.

“It’s already been over 24 hours.

Every minute is precious for the people who are trapped under the rubble of buildings,” said Unni Krishnan, head of disaster response and preparedness for Plan International. “They are likely to be dehydrated, have breathing difficulties due to a lack of oxygen, injuries to head and spine and may be losing blood.”

In Kathmandu Valley, hospitals are overcrowded and are running out of room for storing dead bodies, said aid workers, adding that hospitals were also running short of emergency supplies.

Some are treating people in the streets.

The UN Children’s Fund estimates at least 940,000 children have been severely affected in the area that includes Dhading, Gorkha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Kathmandu districts.

“This crisis leaves children particularly vulnerable – limited access to safe water and sanitation will put children at great risk from waterborne diseases, while some children may have become separated from their families,” UNICEF said.

It has been difficult to assess the full scale of the disaster as many areas outside of Kathmandu are inaccessible due to damaged roads and landslides.

Communications and electricity are intermittent.

Compounding the matter, aid workers say their staff and even those trained in disaster response were themselves traumatized by the disaster and series of aftershocks, with some seeing their family members dying and their property destroyed.

Assessments and coordination between aid agencies led by the Nepalese government are beginning to get underway and aid workers hoped to begin delivering emergency food rations, clean drinking water, blankets and tarpaulin sheets to survivors on Monday.

Relief camps are likely to be established in coming days.

“Hundreds of thousands are sleeping out in the open as they are too scared to go back in a building because of all the aftershocks,” said Oxfam India’s humanitarian manager Zubin Zaman.

“It is cold, it is dark and it is now raining. They have no protection, no shelter. We need to move quickly.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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