Israel Sending Planes With Aid, Rescue Workers to Nepal

After a delay Sunday, EL Al planes to depart with civil defense staff for earthquake-hit area; survivors and newborns to fly to Israel on return trip.

Yaniv Kubovich

The Defense Ministry has hired two wide-bodied 747 EL Al Israel Airlines jumbo jets to send to Nepal as part of a mission to extract Israelis two days after an earthquake devastated the country.

The first plane, a passenger jet, was scheduled to depart Israel at noon, but as of writing had not yet taken off; a cargo plane was scheduled to leave at 10 P.M.

Among the passengers on the first flight is a rescue team from the Home Front Command, the civil defense unit of the Israel Defense Forces. The passengers on the first aircraft’s return flight to Israel is expected to include Israeli survivors of the quake and 24 babies born to surrogate mothers in Nepal along with the infants’ Israeli parents.

The two outgoing flights had initially been scheduled to leave Israel on Sunday at 5 P.M., but the airport serving the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, was shut down then, for a second time, due to a strong aftershock rocked the area. The two Israeli flights were then deferred to 10 P.M. Sunday but delays in receiving the necessary approval for landing pushed the departure of the flights to Monday.

El Al was made other changes in its regular schedule to make the Nepal-bound flights possible. For example, passengers on one of the airline’s flights to Paris on Sunday, which was due to use a 747 jet, were split up and sent on two smaller aircraft to make the larger plane available for the fight to Nepal.

For his part, El Al CEO David Maimon apologized for any inconvenience caused the airline’s passengers, explaining that, as Israel’s national airline, EL Al would do everything possible to dispatch the rescue-workers' flight to Kathmandu, and to bring Israelis who were in Nepal at the time of the quake back home.