Israeli rescuers are taking part in the search for the survivors of in Mexico after a deadly earthquake which struck on Tuesday, killing nearly 300 people and destroying dozens of buildings in the capital city and surrounding states.
“What you are doing is a mitzva,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Col. (res.) Dudi Mizrahi, commander of the National Search and Rescue Unit in the Home Front Command, who is leading the group, and Israel’s ambassador to Mexico, Yoni Peled, on Saturday night.
“You are shining Israel’s light in the world, a big light. This is important for humanitarian purposes and also to show the real Israel. You are bringing a great deal of pride to Israel,” continued Netanyahu, who was briefed on the rescue efforts.
Mizrahi on Friday briefed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on the activities of the delegation, explaining that they have worked on a number of large sites – including offices and a school – since they arrived in the devastated city with cutting-edge technology to aid in the efforts.
Nicknamed “Kol Shofar Lamerhak” (“The Sound of the Shofar Carries Afar”), the delegation landed on Thursday to assist in the mapping and scanning of buildings damaged by the quake to determine whether they are at risk of collapse.
“We left our homes ahead of the holiday [Rosh Hashana] but priority is always given to such a mission – to save lives, even if it is thousands of kilometers from home,” said Mizrahi. “It is a great honor for us to be part of this effort.”
The delegation is made up of mostly structural engineers because Mexican authorities made it clear they did not need search and rescue or medical forces. The delegation is slated to return to Israel on Friday, ahead of Yom Kippur.
On Saturday, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake his southern Mexico.
In November, Israel’s emergency medical response team was recognized by the United Nations as the “No. 1 in the world” and classified as its first “Type 3” field hospital. With the Type 3 classification, Israeli teams will be the first on the scene of any disaster.
Israel was the first foreign emergency medical team to receive such a classification, which has a strict set of criteria created by the World Health Organization to classify foreign medical teams during sudden disasters.
The WHO classification system describes a Type 3 medical team as having “at least two operating tables in two separate rooms within the theater area; at least 40 inpatient beds (20 per table); and have the capability to treat 15 major or 30 minor surgical cases a day.”
Israel’s field hospitals, which can be set up in under 12 hours, can hold 86 inpatient beds and four operating rooms.
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 and medical aid in field hospitals in countries such Haiti, the Philippines, Japan, Turkey and Nepal.
Non-military teams, including ZAKA and iAID, also have joined in the rescue efforts in Mexico, working with the IDF delegation and local officials.
“iAID is in touch with its local partners and UN officials who are monitoring the current crisis on the ground,” said Shachar Zahavi, the founding director of iAID, which sent 15 members of its international emergency response team to Mexico.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee also was on the ground, having provided immediate support to the search, rescue and emergency aid efforts of CADENA, its Mexican Jewish humanitarian partner, in Mexico City.
“As Jews around the world gather to celebrate our New Year, we also mourn the loss of life to this terrible disaster, pray for a speedy recovery and have deployed a swift response to overwhelming needs in Mexico City,” said JDC CEO David Schizer. “In doing so, we put into action our tradition’s call to save human lives, and restore human dignity, even at times of solemn observance. Let us work together now to ensure a better year ahead for all those who have suffered in the face of recent natural disasters.”
With longstanding ties to the Jewish community of Mexico, as well as CADENA, JDC swiftly reached out to assess needs and implement a response focusing on immediate rescue and relief including digging people out of the rubble, emergency psychology services and medical aid.
JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC.
JDC coordinates its relief activities with the US Department of State, USAID, the Israeli government and the United Nations, as well as local and international partners.
World Jewish Relief launched an emergency appeal, calling for donations to provide shelter, temporary accommodation and hygiene kits to victims.
Paul Anticoni, WJR chief executive, said: “As we head into Rosh Hashana, sadly the world is in turmoil once again. Thousands of people have lost everything in Mexico. On the High Holy Days we recite the Unetane Tokef prayer which speaks – terrifyingly – about who will die by earthquake. Jewish tradition teaches us that while we can’t stop natural disasters, we can choose how we respond to them. Please help us support the people of Mexico.”
Tuesday’s tragedy came two weeks after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico leaving close to 100 dead in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. The quake, which rattled Mexico City, as well as the states of Morelos, Puebla Guerrero and Oaxaca, struck on the anniversary of the deadly 1985 quake that killed at least 5,000 people and just hours after the country drilled on earthquake preparedness.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.