The father of a young Israeli backpacker has flown to Nepal to search the shattered nation for his missing son, Or Ashraf.
The 22-year-old hiker was last seen in Langtang a week ago just prior to setting out to hike a trail on Mount Everest, hours before the first 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck.
Israel Ambassador to Nepal, Yaron Meir, told IDF Army Radio on Thursday there is no concrete information about the whereabouts of Or Ashraf. “There is some room for concern,” Meir said.
The trekker last told a friend last Thursday that he might attempt to hike one of the trails alone.
The elder Ashraf brought along some of his son’s IDF colleagues from the Egoz combat unit. Ashraf is the sole Israeli who has not made contact after the quake hit the area.
On Thursday, search and rescue teams planned to attempt a helicopter rescue of 20 Israelis located on a remote mountainside in the Himalayas, officials said.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz, co-director of Chabad of Nepal with his wife, Chani, personally joined a helicopter mission to pick up stranded Israeli trekkers. Hours later, 25 were airlifted to Kathmandu; another 20-25 were still waiting for another airlift.
Bad weather has played a role in delaying helicopter rescues in the mountains. One rescue mission intended to deliver food and a satellite phone to stranded Israelis by motorcycle failed after 10 hours due to blocked roads.
While trekkers wait, cold and hungry, others continue to arrive with homeless villagers at the Chabad House in Kathmandu. Volunteers led by Chani Lifshitz are serving up to 2,000 meals a day to Nepalese. The Lifshitz children, meanwhile, are being hosted at the home of Israel President Reuven Rivlin.
Chabad of Nepal has stayed in touch with some 50 Israelis who have been stuck in remote villages with no food, electricity or water with satellite phones. Israelis are stranded in mountain regions like Dhunche and Syrabrubesi; but they’ve been in touch with Lifshitz thanks to the satellite phones they took with them. They were provided by the Chabad House and donated by the family of Nadav Shoham, an Israeli hiker killed last year in a massive, freak blizzard.
More than 5,500 people are known to have died in the earthquake and the devastating 6.7-magnitude aftershock hours later. More than 100 aftershocks followed, and others have continued to rock the region. The quakes affected areas and killed people in areas as far away as Tibet, India and Pakistan.
Even as life ends for so many, a new baby boy weighing 2.1 kilograms came into the world, according to Major (res.) Michal Peres, a midwife and member of the Israeli delegation at the IDF Field Hospital set up in Nepal. The mother was being treated at a local hospital damaged in the quake, but went into labor and required a Caesarean section due to the size of the baby and the physical circumstances of the mother, IDF Major Gil Dar, an obstetrician/gynecologist confirmed. “The feeling is a good one,” he said.
Hana Levi Julian