Israeli firefighters join battle against Greek blazes

Israeli medics in Peru work around the clock to help earthquake victims.

greece fires 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
greece fires 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A team of 51 Israeli firefighters arrived in Greece on Monday morning, heading to historic Ancient Olympia to help local crews in the battle to control massive wildfires that have killed more than 60 people. With local firefighting crews struggling to get the dozens of fires under control, the head of the Israeli delegation was quoted as saying that the team was ready to "represent Israel with honor" in helping a regional neighbor in its hour of need. While the more than four dozen firefighters - most of them cadets - arrived in Greece on Monday, an Israeli medical team was wrapping up a week of work in Peru, following the earthquake on August 15 that left over 500 dead and over 1,000 injured. Working closely with the Israeli Embassy in Lima, B'nai B'rith Peru and the Jewish community in Lima, the team of six Israeli medical personnel - from 'IsraAid' (Israeli Forum for International Humanitarian Aid) and 'FIRST' (Fast Israel Rescue and Search Team), an umbrella organization for Israeli emergency teams - has been working around the clock to provide medical attention and humanitarian aid to the devastated areas. Volunteers from the Jewish community in Lima have been helping with the logistics effort, including access and delivery of basic medical and relief supplies, and assisting with translations and contacts with local officials and aid groups. Israel has airlifted almost two tons of medicine and medical equipment to the region and the Foreign Ministry donated $20,000, to provide tents and blankets for the victims. Sponsoring the Israeli humanitarian effort is B'nai B'rith International and the American Jewish Committee. B'nai B'rith has also shipped medicines, supplies and 6,000 pairs of Crocs shoes donated by the manufacturer. In the 48 hours since the IsraAID and FIRST medical team arrived, close to 400 victims of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake - which destroyed more than 34,000 homes and left over 100,000 homeless - received medical treatment and emergency relief. The Israeli team began their work in Canete, on the Peruvian west coast, and from there branched out to various disaster sites where they have opened medical clinics. The team is being led by Lt.-Col. (res.) Dror Sinai, a commander of a reserve search and rescue battalion in the IDF's Homefront Command. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, he said: "This is not our first time in an earthquake disaster area and we know how to deal with it. What we're doing now is going to villages and opening medical centers to treat the victims, in coordination with the Catholic relief organization CARITAS. At the moment we are treating over 250 people a day, most of whom suffer from ailments caused by living outdoors in the cold, such as bronchitis and infectious diseases." In the town of Bella Vista they opened a clinic in a local school which treated 120 people. In Santa Barbara they treated over 150 people and in Santa Cruz they distributed food and water and opened a clinic in a local Church where another 120 villagers were treated. The mission, visiting remote areas of the Peruvian countryside, often found itself in villages where many people had never seen a doctor before. Benami Grobman, co-president of B'nai B'rith Peru and member of the Jewish community's emergency response committee, said: "During one of the normal visits in Canete, a five-year-old boy got medical attention for the first time. It was diagnosed that he has a dangerous disease and if not treated would haave been dead within 12 months. The Jewish community has organized an operation for him this week and we are taking him to Lima. The team has gained an excellent reputation and people await their arrival in each town and village." This week they are based in the city of Cerre Azul, a poor rural area of the earthquake affected region which received little attention from the other international teams.