Seven injured Israelis flown home from Nepal; woman still missing after avalanche

An unnamed Israeli businessman reportedly donated his private plane to fly the injured back to Israel.

MDA evacuates injured Israelis from Nepal
Seven Israelis injured in last week’s massive avalanche in Nepal arrived in Israel early Sunday morning, and the body of Nadav Shoham – one of three Israeli trekkers killed in the blizzard – arrived on a flight late Saturday night.
The Hadassah Medical Organization sent a special rescue flight to repatriate the injured hikers, an HMO spokeswoman said on Friday.
An unnamed Israeli businessman reportedly donated his private plane to fly the injured back to Israel.
Six of the injured Israelis suffered from various degrees of frostbite and one of the injured's vision was impaired. Magen David Adom EMS evacuated the injured to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem and to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.
The team was headed by Prof. Avi Rivkind, head of the Hadassah-University Medical Center’s trauma and emergency department, and Dr. Julius Golander, a pediatric cardiologist, who will help repatriate a two-week old newborn suffering from a cardiac defect, not connected to the avalanche.
After landing in Nepal, the team evaluated the Israeli casualties in a Kathmandu Hospital and decided to evacuate seven of them. Some of the injured will require prolonged therapy and rehabilitation for frostbite. Teams of surgeons, other physicians and support personnel are deployed at Hadassah to assist in the evaluation and care of the injured.
Rivkind told Channel 2 the injured Israelis were in good spirits, happy with the treatment they were receiving and that they would receive further medical assistance in Israel.
In a statement released Saturday morning, the Foreign Ministry said the bodies of the other two Israeli fatalities – Lt. Tamar Ariel, 24, and Agam Luria, 23 – were expected to be repatriated in the coming days.
Another Israeli citizen, Michal Gili Charkesky, 43, from Givatayim, remained missing while Nepal resumed its emergency rescue operation on Saturday in the Sangda-La pass.
Charkesky’s brother told Channel 2 that the family was “waiting for a miracle.”
Saturday was the fourth day of organized searches since snowstorms, triggered by the tail-end of a cyclone, erupted, sweeping through large parts of the Himalayas. The death toll from the storm rose to 39 on Saturday, Nepalese police and army sources said. Nineteen of the fatalities were tourists, including – in addition to the Israelis – Canadian, Indian, Polish and Slovakian nationals. On Friday, Nepalese rescue teams brought down 37 hikers from the Thorang-La pass in the Annapurna Region.
Two Israeli trekkers trapped on a Himalayan pass that had been inaccessible since the blizzard struck the Annapurna mountain were rescued overnight Friday, as emergency teams continued their search for survivors.
According to Channel 2, all 50 Israelis – with the exception of Charkesky – who were on the mountain have been located and brought to Kathmandu. Another 40 Israelis in Nepal have not yet contacted their families, but they are not believed to be in any danger.
One Israeli woman, Maya Ora, told Channel 2 a harrowing tale of walking in snow that was a meter-and-a- half high, and of seeing bodies along the trail. She spoke of one friend who was trapped, whom she helped extract from the snow.
“We saw our friends dying in the snow,” she said.
The Israeli insurance company Harel has conducted its own rescue operation, evacuating some 60 Israeli hikers from stranded areas in the region that have been cut off from access.
Magen David Adom also sent a medical delegation headed by Dr. Rafi Strugo, head of its medical branch, and senior paramedic Asi Dabilansky to Kathmandu, where they examined the Israeli injured and prepared them for their flight home.
They said all the injured suffered serious psychological trauma and were happy to encounter experts who spoke their language, even though the local teams gave them excellent care.
Twelve local helicopters were pressed into action on Saturday to drop searchers in otherwise inaccessible spots, and Nepalese soldiers fanned out in different directions along the 240 km. route. It was the most intensive effort yet to find survivors of one of the country’s worst mountain disasters, which struck at a time of year when the weather is usually calm and clear.
Thorong La, the highest pass along the Annapurna trek, is at an altitude of 5,416 m., but the route does not require mountaineering experience. Eyewitnesses said many victims perished trying to descend the pass in freezing, whiteout conditions.
In Kathmandu, survivors recounted their brush with death during the blizzard.
Munchang Lama, 35, a guide for two Israeli women, found himself marooned while he was pitching a tent for them.
“Suddenly it started raining and I took shelter between two rocks,” said Lama, who was rescued on Friday, suffering from frostbite and minor injuries. “Next morning I was not able to walk because my leg was stuck in snow,” he added. “I realized I would only be able to get out when the snow melted.”
Lama said he was able to keep up his strength by munching on nuts, chocolates and a banana he found in the women’s bags.
“This kept me alive for 48 hours,” said Lama, adding that he did not know what became of his clients.
The government has admitted failing to issue any warning that the weather would take a sudden turn for the worse, and has promised to set up an early-warning system.
This week’s incident was the second major mountain disaster in Nepal this year after an avalanche killed 16 guides on Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, in April.
The home ministry told officials in the five affected districts to trace missing people who could have taken shelter from the storm in hamlets, temples or other isolated spots.
At least 45 Nepalese families have approached officials in the districts of Mustang, Manang and Dolpa for help tracking down their missing family members who worked as porters and guides.
“The problem is that any Nepali is free to start operating as a porter and they do not require a license,” said Keshav Pandey of Nepal’s Trekking Agencies Association.
“According to our estimate more than 85 Nepalis are still stuck.”
Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains.
Income from tourism, including permit fees from trekkers, who made up more than 12 percent of its 800,000 tourists in 2013, accounts for 4% of its economy.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.