The ZAKA Divers Unit was, for the first time, invited to participate in a NATO international search, rescue and recovery exercise as part of an official Israeli National Emergency Management Authority delegation, which took place this week in Montenegro with participants from 27 countries.
The exercise enacted a scenario in which the rivers in Montenegro flooded large populated areas, home to around 640,000 residents. As a result, villages were badly damaged, around 40,000 houses were flooded, and thousands of citizens were adversely affected. Following the national disaster, the government turned to NATO, requesting assistance in rescue and recovery of the injured and dead, and supplying food and water to the residents.
Twenty-seven countries from around the world responded to the request and sent rescue and medical teams, including the State of Israel via the National Emergency Management Authority that instructed the emergency and rescue forces to send professional delegations. The 24-strong Israeli delegation, that left for Montenegro on Sunday (October 30), included seven members of the ZAKA Divers Unit, the Fire and Rescue Authority’s central unit, and representatives of the Search and Rescue units from the Home Front Command and the Ministry of Defense.
The Israeli rescue teams, including members of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit headed by Mati Goldstein, brought half a ton of equipment worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, and quickly began their search and rescue missions, bringing tens of people to safety. The rescue teams worked in an area under especially harsh conditions, with the water temperature only around 7oC (44F). According to the exercise scenario, some of the bridges had collapsed, roads were destroyed, and the volunteers were mostly moving from place to place by boat. The ZAKA Divers Unit used the ZAKA Scooter, an underwater motorized scooter, developed exclusively by ZAKA, that is intended for searching for missing people underwater.
ZAKA International Rescue Unit commander Mati Goldstein said in a statement: “We found several people whose car was underwater, but they had managed to extricate themselves from it and climb onto it or a higher level. Some had been waiting there for three days – we rescued them together with members of the Fire and Rescue Authority’s central unit,” related
ZAKA Divers Unit commander Haim Outmezgine said in a statement: “This was a very important exercise – our first NATO exercise – with complex rescue challenges. The ability to work together with the firefighting and rescue teams from around the world allowed us to execute the task perfectly, while earning the admiration of the exercise organizers and accumulating significant knowledge for the ZAKA Divers Unit. Without a doubt, participating in such an exercise has given us greater knowledge and experience for use in real-life situations.”Photo of the Day