Five Israeli volunteers from ZAKA International Rescue Units aided hundreds of vulnerable Floridians impacted by Hurricane Irma in Miami before and after the storm devastated large swaths of the region.One week before the hurricane made landfall in Florida, ZAKA International Rescue Unit chief officer Mati Goldstein, who arrived there Monday morning, said ZAKA workers were securing at-risk homes and structures with backup generators and necessary supplies. “Our team was working with Chesed Shel Emes Miami under the direction of Mark Rosenberg to help the local community build two shelters and provide generators for a worse-case scenario,” said Goldstein on Tuesday.“We had a whole protocol of who would come if something happened, and Baruch Hashem [thank God], the hit here wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be in the beginning.”Goldstein said the team focused their preemptive efforts in northern Miami, where they equipped two large concrete buildings with medical supplies, generators, air conditioning, food and radio communication to accommodate 300 people for 10 days.“Before the storm landed, we sent emails to members of the communities to say that if something big happens, those are the two spots you can go to, and we will be there to help you,” he said.“The most important thing to emphasize was that this was a joint venture with CSE Miami, because at the end of the day, the Miami guys from CSE created a list of people who stayed for the storm and those who left, therefore by tonight we will go through the entire list to make sure everyone is okay,” Goldstein said.
Noting that the storm did not necessitate life-saving rescues, he said the majority of work carried out by ZAKA and CSE Miami included assisting the community’s most vulnerable residents, removing fallen trees and supplying gas.“The biggest problem here is that all kinds of big trees fell on cars and houses, and that 90% of Florida is without electricity,” he said.“We are working in an area which is without power, helping families with sick children and elderly people who were unable to evacuate from the area,” he said, adding that the ZAKA team is working in coordination with the North Miami Beach Police.Local Police Chief Major Richard Rand praised the Israeli volunteers for their contributions.“This is an unbelievable effort,” he said. “People [from ZAKA] are going from house to house at 1:30 in the morning when everyone else is sleeping to make sure they are safe.”Goldstein said the ZAKA team met their three primary objectives, including providing power for those who are ill so they can continue to be treated at home, ensuring that no one from ZAKA was injured and had necessary supplies and helping the community become functional again.
Hurricane Irma slams into Florida (REUTERS)