The first contingent of Israelis are to arrive home Monday after being rescued from the heights of the Himalayas in Nepal after a deadly earthquake tore apart the region.
The Israeli Air Force plane is also carrying three newbies, premature babies born amidst the temblors. It’s expected to arrive at 1:00 a.m. Monday.
The IDF general staff said Sunday that its rescue mission to Nepal was delayed by 12 hours due to the condition of the landing strip at Kathmandu.
Although the mission was originally set to depart from Israel at 10:00 pm local time, it was not clear whether the IAF would stick to the schedule> The IDF also said a great deal of discussion was taking place over which type of planes could be used given current conditions on the ground.
The Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu was also slightly damaged due to the earthquakes. The first, a 7.9-magnitude quake, did the most damage to the area. But that was followed within just a few hours by an aftershock that was nearly as devastating, registering at 6.7-magnitude on the Richter scale.
Both caused damage – and fatalities – as far away as India and China. In Nepal, the death toll thus far has risen to nearly 2,500 and almost twice as many injured.
More than four hundred Israelis were known to be traveling near Kathmandu at the time of the quakes. Most have been tracked down or checked in on their own, but 150 Israelis are still out of touch with their families and authorities.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry is coordinating its efforts with the Kathmandu Chabad House, where volunteers have transformed the building into a local crisis management and refugee center for the time being.
Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz and his wife Chani are urging Israelis throughout Nepal via their Facebook pages and other social media not to sleep indoors tonight (Sunday, April 26, 2015), saying the area is still unstable, and that doing so would be “unsafe.”
Hana Levi Julian