Israeli Feared Dead in New Zealand Earthquake

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the government may send an aid envoy to Christchurch to help with rescue efforts as well as assistance to the estimated 120 Israelis who are there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he would be keeping in close touch with the government of New Zealand to assist in the aftermath of an earthquake that killed at least 65.

The prime minister said that the government may send an aid envoy to Christchurch to help with rescue efforts to save those trapped in the rubble as well as assistance to Israelis who are there.

Christchurch earthquake - Reuters - Feb. 22, 2011

The earthquake hit New Zealand's second-biggest city of Christchurch at 12:51 pm (2351 GMT Monday) at a depth of 4 km on Tuesday, with more casualties expected as rescuers worked into the night to find scores of people trapped inside collapsed buildings.

It was the second quake to hit the city of almost 400,000 people in five months, and New Zealand's most deadly natural disaster for 80 years.

Israel's Foreign Ministry fears that an Israeli man may be among those killed in the quake, Israel radio reported on Tuesday. There are an estimated 120 Israelis living or traveling in Christchurch, only some of which have been successfully contacted.

The Foreign Ministry said that the Israeli consulate general in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, has travelled to Christchurch to find Israelis that were caught in the quake and need help.

According to the ministry, the deputy prime minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke with New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully Tuesday and expressed Israel's condolences, offering Israeli aid.

Lieberman also thanked McCully for New Zealand authorities' efficient assistance to the Israeli Embassy in Wellington in locating the Israelis in the vicinity of the quake.

McCully responded, expressing gratitude and saying there is still no final assessment of the number and condition of earthquake victims.

Chabad-Lubavitch's website has reported that the natural disaster toppled Christchurch's central Chabad center. Rabbi Shmuel Freedman, who moved to the New Zealand city three months ago to co-direct the Chabad headquarters, said he and other personnel were inside the center when the earthquake hit.

“We all ran out as it was falling down, but thank God everybody is okay,” he said from Latimar Square, where Jewish families had congregated to search for survivors. “We are getting everybody together now at the square to see if anybody is missing, and we are working very hard to help everybody.”