Israel is among more than a dozen countries that are sending rescuers and aid to earthquake-hit Nepal, which was still scrambling to find and treat survivors Sunday.
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The 7.9 magnitude quake struck midday Saturday at a busy time of year for the tourism-reliant country's trekking and climbing season, with an estimated 300,000 foreign tourists in the country, several hundred of those on Mount Everest. The death toll topped 2,000 by Sunday and was expected to climb even higher.
The Israeli army was preparing to send a rescue mission to Nepal Sunday that includes 260 people who will fly to Katmandu and set up a field hospital there.
The military delegation from the Home Front command has three tasks: to search for survivors of the earthquake and to operate a rescue team; to set up a field hospital to provide medical assistance to the injured; and to establish contact with the Israelis who have been incommunicado.
Forty doctors and about 80 members of a medical team will operate the military field hospital, which will include operating rooms, X-rays, an emergency room, a room for expectant mothers and more. Three rescue teams, each of them with 20 rescuers, will also be included in the military delegation, as well as three dogs from the Oketz canine special forces unit and their handlers.
The delegation will bring with it 95 tons of equipment for 14 full days of operation. It will take off this evening from Ben Gurion International Airport for Kathmandu in two El Al Boeing planes. One will be a transport plane and the other a passenger plane that will also carry equipment.
"We plan to take off at 10:30 P.M., due to the travel time and the weather in the Kathmandu area," said the delegation commander, Col. Yoram Laredo.
The Foreign Ministry says it estimates around 600 Israelis are in Nepal, and has secured contact with 400, most of them sheltering at the embassy in Kathmandu.
These include 25 couples in Nepal to bring home babies born to surrogates.
Of the nearly two dozen countries whose citizens were in Nepal at the time of the earthquake, Israel has the third highest number of citizens there after India and South Korea.
Israeli-based humanitarian organization IsraAID is also responding to the crisis in Nepal, coordinating with government officials, UN agencies and other international groups to provide assistance to the Himalayan country that is still reeling from aftershocks.
IsraAID is dispatching a disaster team to Nepal on Sunday to provide relief supplies and medical services, the group said in a statement. It also plans to set up "child-friendly" spaces and send psychologists to the disaster-stricken area.
"We already have an emergency team in place and hopefully we'll put them on a plane later," the group's Founding Director Shachar Zahavi told Israel National News on Sunday. "Just like in Haiti and in other places we have worked, it has medical aspects, opening up field hospitals parallel to those of the IDF. Of course, like in Haiti, we'll do anything in our power to coordinate our efforts with the IDF and the Israeli government."
Zahavi said that IsraAID is also boosting its fundraising efforts, aiming to raise $1 million from Israelis and the broader Jewish community.
Aid organizations from other countries have also pledged millions of dollars in aid and have sent search and rescue teams to the Himalayan nation. Among them are the United States, China, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Britain, Spain and Norway.