An IDF delegation took off for Brazil to help with rescue efforts following the collapse of a dam that killed at least 40 and left at least 200 missing.
The Home Front Command delegation, which will assist in rescuing survivors and locating missing persons, is headed by Col. (res.) Golan Vach, who conducted a situational assessment immediately before boarding the El Al plane to Brazil.
The delegation includes about 130 soldiers and officers in active service as well as 70 reservists from the Home Front Command, among them engineering experts, doctors, search and rescue personnel and firefighters. Troops from the navy’s underwater missions unit (YALTAM 707) will also take part in the mission.
Foreign Ministry representatives, Israeli Ambassador to Brazil Yossi Shelly and ZAKA rescue services personnel also joined the delegation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday evening that he had spoken with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and agreed to send a delegation and rescue equipment within 24 hours.
The dam outside the community of Brumadinho collapsed on Friday, inundating a nearby community in reddish-brown sludge.
“After a situational assessment as well as a dialogue with local officials, it was understood that a search-and-rescue mission for missing persons is the main need in the disaster in Brazil,” the military said. The troops will be assisted by advanced equipment that can locate cellular signals, including sonar devices and drones that can formulate an aerial picture.
“The IDF will continue to assist, on behalf of the State of Israel, in any disaster throughout the world that it can contribute from its experience and capabilities.”
ZAKA is also bringing state-of-the-art equipment, including a sonar device that was recently purchased by the organization to assist in similar missions.
“Our mission will focus on rescuing survivors, and search and recovery of those killed in the disaster,” said ZAKA International Rescue Unit commander Matti Goldstein.
ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav added that it’s “a moral obligation to offer help and assistance to all those in need, regardless of religion, race or creed, when their country is overtaken by disaster. This is part of our mission to sanctify the divine name and Israel around the world.”
In November, the Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue Brigade was accepted as a member of the UN’s International Search and Rescue Advisory Group. It will operate under the UN for the first time in Brazil.
Following the election of the right-wing Brazilian president, ties between the two countries have warmed, with Netanyahu visiting in January and Bolsonaro saying he would move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.
Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro tweeted his gratitude to Israel.
“Israel does this because it is a friendly country. It was always around, but was always mistreated by former governments,” he wrote on Twitter. “Excuse me, but for all the bad guys on duty, you just have keep quiet and look how much good comes of this approach.”
Israel has often aided countries struck by natural disasters, sending teams from the IDF Medical Corps and Home Front Command to provide search-and-rescue teams and medical aid in field hospitals in countries such as Mexico, Haiti, the Philippines, Japan, Turkey and Nepal.
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