Israel has sent a delegation of emergency responders to Nepal following a devastating earthquake that has killed more than 2,150 people and injured some 4,800 others.
On Saturday, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake began outside the capital of Kathmandu. The quake is the worst tremor to his the South Asian country in over 80 years.
Tremors were felt across neighboring countries such as India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan. The quake triggered an avalanche on a Mount Everest base camp in Nepal, where 17 people are believed to have been killed and 61 injured.
According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the IDF and aid organizations have partnered up to send paramedics, rescuers and emergency supplies to the hardest hit region. Dozens of Israelis in Nepal are still unaccounted for.
Just after midnight, a special advance team took off from Israel to assess the needs of the Nepalese and Israeli emergency responders. A second rescue team of 240 soldiers departed to Nepal early Sunday morning to aid in rescue and recovery efforts over the next two weeks.
Lt. Col. Eva Cohen of the IDF LIBI Fund received a phone call from the IDF Medical Corps requesting financial assistance for their humanitarian mission to Nepal.
“Upon receiving the phone call, I immediately asked what we could do to help out our fellow soldiers on their mission,” she said. “Everyone should know that when a massive disaster happens somewhere in the world – the Philippines, Haiti or Nepal – it’s the Israeli army that responds first.”
More than 400 IDF personnel are expected to head to Nepal with the full aid of LIBI.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the special IDF rescue team is made up of six medical experts, IDF Home Front Command soldiers, and a team from the IDF Medical Corps.
For those Israelis stranded in Nepal, the statement added that they will be given “the means necessary to return to Israel.”
Aside from official government organization, private Israeli groups such as IsraAID, Magen David Adom, Zaka and United Hatzalah are planning on sending delegations of medics and emergency supplies on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of condolences to Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala on Saturday night, promising medical assistance and emergency aid. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin issued a statement of support.
“Our thoughts and hearts go out to the people of Nepal dealing with this awful disaster, and with our loved ones who are in distress. The State of Israel is reaching out to help the search and rescue of the many victims,” Rivlin said in a statement.
Israel is usually the first international responders to the scenes of emergency disasters. In 2014 the IDF Field Hospital Unit was unique in its abilities to arrive quickly to disaster areas, usually within a matter of 24 hours.