Nepal Earthquake Updates Some 200 Israelis Preparing to Return Home on Special Flight

More than 4,100 dead; Israelis return from Nepal with surrogate babies; number of Israelis who remain unaccounted for down to 50.

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Haaretz
A Nepali family gathers possessions from their home destroyed in the earthquake.
A Nepali family gathers possessions from their home destroyed in the earthquake.Credit: AP
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Haaretz

The death toll from Nepal's earthquake rose to over 4,100 on Monday, two days after the massive trembler ripped across this Himalayan nation, leaving tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets.

Aid groups received the first word from remote mountain villages — reports that suggested many communities perched on mountainsides were devastated or struggling to cope.

The Foreign Ministry has no information on any Israelis who were injured in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake which was centered just outside the capital, Kathmandu. The number of Israelis who remain unaccounted for, and are thought to have been traveling in the region, decreased to 50 on Monday.

11:53 P.M. As IDF medical teams were unloading their equipment, some 200 Israelis who had been waiting at the Israeli Embassy for evacuation were preparing to board to return to Israel. The passengers included couples who had had babies born to surrogates and Israelis who had been injured in the earthquake. The plane was scheduled to return to Israel during the night.

Amir Barda and Tal Bosidon, who have been in Nepal for the last month and a half awaiting the birth of their baby, were two of the 200 Israelis to crowd at the airport in Kathmandu: "On the one hand, it is an amazing and proud feeling to see the El Al plane here to take us home, but on the other hand the same plane that sends planes to the edge of the world to bring Israelis home – is the same state that because of its laws people like us have to go to remote places and go through such a difficult process. (Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz correspondent in Kathmandu)

11:13 P.M. The first of four plane carrying IDF medical aid to Nepal landed late Monday in Kathmandu. Three other planes took off from Ben Gurion international Airport in the afternoon, including a civilian aircraft carrying some 50 tons of equipment, mostly medical, for use by the rescue team dispatched to treat survivors of the tragedy.

Some 12 babies born to surrogate mothers and Israeli fathers, as well as a number of other Israelis, will leave Nepal late Monday night on the plane on which the rescue team flew.

Eight of the 20 babies born in Nepal to surrogate mothers have been brought to Israeli over the last two days. Three babies were brought on an Israel Air force plane on Sunday night and the other five landed Monday afternoon.

(Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz correspondent in Kathmandu)

5:32 P.M. Israelis stranded in Nepal countryside: We need urgent evacuation

A group of ten Israeli tourists currently north of Kathmandu sent messages via satellite phones to their families in Israel, saying they are in need of urgent evacuation. "We have to get out of here today!" Shahar Zakai wrote in a text message sent Monday. The Israelis, who are in an area called Langtang, or the Frozen Lakes, said they were met with hostility by locals when they tried to get food in a nearby village.

Tami Ganon, whose daughter Ofir is among the Israelis in the group, said that according to the messages, they are in real danger. "They are all former officers and combat soldiers [in the IDF] and yet they send out messages of serious distress," she said.

The Foreign Ministry said that so far 490 Israelis have been located, but that 50 have yet to make contact. (Noa Shpigel, Barak Ravid)

4:07 P.M. Kathmandu airport reaches capacity; aid aircraft turned back

Official death count in Nepal earthquake has risen to over 4,100, the Nepalese Interior Ministry reported. At the same time, chaos has reportedly taken over the small international airport in Kathmandu, packed with tourists wishing to escape the country. The airport has run out of parking space, and at least 15 aircraft are currently hovering in the skies waiting to land.

At the same time, four Indian Air Force aircraft carrying communication humanitarian aid and rescue team were forced to head back to New Delhi due to the heavy traffic. The planes are expected to land over the night, when the situation in the airport may improve.

Kathmandu Airport is out of parking space. 15+ flights holding & waiting for their turn http://t.co/xit7JfLHCW pic.twitter.com/3GvW2gOnWx

3:14 P.M. Surrogate mothers in Nepal can enter Israel, attorney general says

Surrogate mothers pregnant with babies to Israeli parents currently in Nepal can arrive in Israel, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said.

Dozens of parents and surrogate mothers at different stages of their pregnancies are still in Nepal. On Sunday, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said he has decided to permit the mothers to enter Israel, in order to continue the process.

Ronen and Tom Ziv were supposed to return to Nepal for their second surrogate birth. "We're in an advanced pregnancy, a surrogate mother in her 35th week," Ronen told Haaretz. "We're very anxious. We hope she hasn't given birth yet, but she will definitely give birth in the next week or so, and the situation there is quite catastrophic," he said. (Ravital Hovel and Ilan Lior)

2:05 P.M. 100 Israelis in Nepal still haven't made contact

The Foreign Ministry announced that 100 Israelis in Nepal have yet to make contact since Saturday's quake, and that the ministry is concentrating its efforts at evacuating Israelis located in the Nepalese countryside. The Ministry will make "a great effort to rent helicopters anywhere possible for this purpose. At the same tie, a car will be sent to any spot that can be reached by car."

The Ministry said that it's working to make contact with all Israelis currently in Nepal, aiming to enable any who wish to do so to return to Israel within days, while sending aid to the Nepalese at the same time.

The Ministry also said that Israel's former ambassador to Nepal, Hanan Guder, is helping some 500 Nepalese interns currently in Israel to contact their families back home. The houses of about 165 of them were destroyed in the quake, the Ministry said. (Barak Ravid)

1:20 P.M. Israeli delegation's medical team takes off to Kathmandu

The medical team to accompany the Israeli army delegation to Nepal has taken off to Kathmandu. The Israeli army said that another civilian airliner will take off from Ben Gurion Airport in the next few hours carrying about 50 tons of equipment, most of it medical, to be used by the delegation in order to rescue and treat disaster victims. Following these airliners' departure, the Israeli delegation to Nepal will be complete. (Gili Cohen)

12:30 P.M. MDA plane returns with 18 Israelis on board

A Magen David Adom plane has landed at Sde Dov airport in Tel Aviv, carrying 18 Israelis who were extracted from Nepal. Among those rescued are five newborn babies, including a set of twins, who were born to surrogate mothers and three two-year-olds. The others on board were the children's parents and relatives, totaling four families.

The passengers aboard this flight were chosen by the Foreign Ministry and insurance companies.

"We have had sleepless nights," one mother said.

The MDA delegation arrived in Kathmandu at 5 P.M. Sunday (Israel time) with doctors, surgeons, medical equipment and food for the babies on board. It departed Nepal at about 5 A.M. Monday en route back to Israel.

11:10 A.M. Death toll rises to at least 3,617

Nepal police say the death toll in the country has risen to at least 3,617 people from the earthquake that hit the Himalayan nation on the weekend. The police statement did not immediately give any other details. So far 18 people have also been confirmed dead in an avalanche that swept through the Mount Everest base camp in the wake of the earthquake. Another 61 people were killed in neighboring India, and 20 in Tibet.

10:00 A.M. Defense Ministry sending two planes on rescue mission

The Defense Ministry has rented two El Al planes for Nepal rescue missions; one will depart Israel for Nepal at noon, the other at 8 P.M. today. The flights that set out this morning were military planes, and not among these flights. (Zohar Blumenkrantz)

9:45 A.M. Israeli army delegation to Nepal takes off

An Israel Air Force cargo airplane carrying a crew of 87 rescue personnel takes off to Nepal. This is the first operational use of the C-130J, or Shimshon, which Israel received last year.

The rest of the delegation, which consists of 180 people, among them medical personnel, was sent on a second airplane.

8:40 A.M. Air Force plane brings first group of Israelis from Nepal

An Israel Air Force aircraft has returned safely with the first group of Israelis extracted from Nepal. The group consists of eight adults and three newborns who were born to Israeli couples by Nepalese women via a surrogacy procedure. Another plane sent to Kathmandu by the Magen David Adom emergency service together with the Phoenix insurance company, is scheduled to land at Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport at 12:30 P.M. The plane is carrying 10 adults and eight children.

5:16 A.M. At least 20 killed in Tibet after Nepal earthquake

At least 20 people were killed in Tibet by the earthquake centred in Nepal at the weekend, Chinese news reports said Monday.

Another 58 people were injured and four remained missing in south-western China's autonomous region of Tibet, the state-owned Xinhua news agency reported, citing the regional disaster relief headquarters. (DPA)

1:39 A.M. Three U.S. citizens among dead in massive avalanche triggered by Nepal earthquake

Three Americans died in a massive avalanche triggered by the devastating Nepal earthquake, the U.S. State Department said on Sunday, including a medic and a filmmaker who were at a base camp for Mount Everest climbers.

The medic, Marisa Eve Girawong, was a physician's assistant who worked for Madison Mountaineering, a Seattle-based guide service, according to Kurt Hunter, the company's co-founder and chief technology officer.

Girawong, who was from Edison, New Jersey, according to media reports, was among more than a dozen people who perished in the Mount Everest avalanche.

Tom Taplin, a 61-year-old filmmaker and photographer from Evergreen, Colorado, making a documentary about the Mount Everest base camp when the avalanche hit also died, his wife Cory Freyer said on Sunday in a telephone interview.

Taplin had been on the mountain for nearly two weeks, his wife said. He was there with two friends who are cameramen, but both had left before the avalanche.

The third American, Dan Fredinburg, was a veteran Google Inc executive, who served most recently as head of privacy at Google X, a research division at the Mountain View, California-based technology company. His death was announced on Saturday.

Fredinburg was climbing the world's tallest peak with three other Google employees when the avalanche struck. None of his colleagues were injured, a company official said.

The State Department on Sunday did not confirm the identities of the three Americans. (Reuters)

11:49 P.M. IDF delegation to Nepal delayed, possibly until Tuesday

The Israeli delegation to Nepal returned home following delays due to issues at the Kathmandu airport, but told to be available on three hours' notice. They are expected to leave tomorrow, but this may only happen on Tuesday.

Planes loaded with logistic equipment and the delegations's personal belongings are already waiting at the airport. The delegation was originally supposed to fly to Nepal on large four-engine Boeing aircrafts, too large to land at the Kathmandu airport.

The army raised the possibility that the delegation could travel on military aircraft. Further, the delegation may travel to India on the larger aircrafts, then fly to Nepal on smaller military aircraft. (Yaniv Kubovich)

8:50 P.M. Kathmandu disconnected, "Like a refugee camp"

A description of the current state of Kathmandu was given to Haaretz by Yonatan Leitner, a member of the evacuation team sent to Nepal by the Harel insurance company, who landed in Kathmandu on Sunday morning. "We arrived here this morning after many delays. There were problems landing - the airport isn't really functioning. When we landed there was a pretty serious secondary quake - while we were unloading the baggage in the terminal. From there we drove to the embassy – we've been there for 12 hours already, and met with local army officers." Both locals and tourists are sleeping outdoors due to fears of further quakes and building collapses, Leitner said, adding that many of the Israelis are sleeping on the embassy lawn. According to Leiter, the locals are sleeping in parks and open area, and long lines of people can be seen outside military posts, waiting in line to receive water and food. The city, he told Haaretz, "looks like a refugee camp. It's disconnected, there's no electricity in the houses. The Israelis, they are OK – but the locals – there are places with no running water, they are standing in line for water." (Noa Shpigel)

6:35 P.M. Over 2,500 confirmed dead, vast majority in Nepal

The official number of dead from Saturday's Himalayan earthquake has topped 2,500 and may continue to rise as remote areas near the epicenter are searched.

Nepal authorities said Sunday that at least 2,430 people in that country had died in Nepal alone, not including the 18 people that the Nepal Mountaineering Association says died in an earthquake-triggered avalanche on Mount Everest. Another 61 people died from the quake in India and a few in other neighboring countries.
With search and rescue efforts far from over, it is unclear how much the death toll would rise. (AP)

4:40 P.M. Number of Israelis still unaccounted for down to 150

The Foreign Ministry says the number of Israelis who remain unaccounted for, and are thought to have been traveling in the region, is now down to 150. The Foreign Ministry also said that eight Israelis and three newborn babies born to Israeli couples by Nepalese women via a surrogacy procedure were already on their way to Israel. It also said that reports on a traffic accident involving Israelis in Nepal were being investigated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the head of the Israeli aid mission to Nepal, deputy general Yoram Larado, and told him: "You are being sent on an important mission. This is the true face of Israel – a nation that sends aid, to and distance, during such moments. (Barak Ravid)

4:00 P.M. El Al aid flights to Nepal delayed

The two El Al Boeing 747 planes scheduled to fly to Nepal on Sunday afternoon carrying an aid mission organized by Israel's Defense Ministry and the Home Front Command were delayed due to the re-closure of the Kathmandu airport in the aftermath of a secondary quake.

The flights, which were originally scheduled to leave Ben Gurion International Airport at 5 P.M. , will leave at 10:30 P.M.

On their return trip, the planes will carry home Israeli survivors of the disaster zone, including newborn babies birthed by surrogate Nepalese mothers to Israeli couples.

The Home Front Command's delegation includes 260 people, who will take part in search and rescue operations, and offer medical attention to survivors via a field hospital. The delegation will also attempt to contact Israelis who are still unaccounted for.

Forty doctors and some 80 other medical staff will man the military field hospital, which will include operating rooms, x-ray facilities and a delivery room. (Zohar Blumenkrantz)

A Nepalese man plays with his 8-month-old daughter as he is treated for injuries at a city hospital in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. (AFP)

Barak Ravid, Zohar Blumenkrantz, Noa Shpigel, Yaniv Kubovich, Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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