Typhoon Haiyan
Residents clear the road of a fallen electric post after Typhoon Haiyan hit Daanbantayan town in Cebu Province, central Philippines November 11, 2013. Photo by Reuters
Text size

The Israeli military dispatched a small team of rescue experts on Sunday night to the storm-stricken Philippines to "determine the best rapid response the IDF can provide."

The team will prepare the ground for the possible arrival of a larger contingency of emergency responders in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history.

Experts in the field of search, rescue and medicine, from the Home Front Command will evaluate the disaster and the state of infrastructure in the storm-stricken country, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

More than 10,000 people are feared dead after the typhoon hit the archipelago nation last Friday and wreaked havoc throughout a 300-mile wide zone. Almost 10 million people have been affected.

If authorized by Israel's civilian authorities, the IDF plans to send dozens of officers, mostly physicians, to aid the storm victims and help put the devastated nation get back on track.

Magen David Adom, Israel's emergency medical, disaster and ambulance service, is currently meeting with the International Red Cross in Australia, assessing how best to contribute to the humanitarian mission.

Meanwhile, several British and American organizations are mobilizing to raise donations in support of typhoon victims.

World Jewish Relief, which aids Jewish and non-Jewish causes worldwide, plans to raise funds for food and water, temporary shelter and medical care of survivors.

"As part of the Jewish community’s response to this emergency we are appealing for urgent support to help us reach those in most desperate need,” the Jewish Chronicle quoted WJR chief Paul Anticoni as saying.

“We are inspired by the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam – ‘Healing the World’ – WJR has a critical role in leading British Jewry’s response to international disasters such as this one,” Anticoni said.

In the United States, the Jewish Federations of North America and Union for Reform Judaism have made similar appeals for funds to aid in humanitarian efforts. 

IsraAID, an Israeli-based humanitarian organization, has said it preparing to send a team from Israel early this week to join forces with local NGOs and UN agencies in reaching out to treat the hundreds of thousands affected by the super storm.

"Our local counterparts in the most devastated areas of Leyte and Samar islands are reporting that over 90% of houses collapsed," IsraAID Chairman Shachar Zahavi said. "IsraAID is aiming to send a team consisting of medical, trauma and relief professionals and will aim its initial focus in…Tacloban City in Leyte" among other sites.

Israel is home to thousands of Filipino workers who are now scrambling to make contact with loved ones affected by the typhoon.

“I don’t know what’s happening with my family,” said Emma Fernanda, who lives in Tel Aviv. “I’m very worried. Not only is my husband there, so are my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her children. I tried to reach them and can’t. The telephone lines are cut and there's no electricity.”

Fernanda, 41, has been living in Israel for 18 years, and for the past few days she has been focusing on her computer.

“I watch the news from the Philippines. Maybe they’ll wave and say ‘we’re okay, don’t worry,’" Fernanda said. "I spoke with my husband Thursday evening. He told me a storm was expected and that he was going to rest and bring in things from outside the house. On Friday morning I tried to reach him on Skype and Facebook and by phone, but couldn’t. It has been three days and I have no news.”

Israel's Foreign Ministry has not been able to communicate with four Israelis who are currently in the Philippines. The ministry says it knows of no Israelis who were injured in the typhoon, but that many phone lines and Internet connections are down, so the options for reaching anyone are limited.