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Israel Humanitarian Operations: 2015 Earthquake in Nepal

(May 2015)

A massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal on April 25, 2015, killing more than 6,200 people and stranding many more in remote villages without assistance. Aftershocks continued throughout the country for the following week, causing more damage and making relief efforts even more complicated. The earthquake triggered an avalanche at Mount Everest, killing at least 17 people and making it the deadliest day ever on the giant mountain. Experts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) classified the earthquake as “violent,” and it's effects could be felt well over a thousand miles from the epicenter.

The day after the earthquake, international relief efforts sprung into action. Israel sent a team comprised of 122 doctors, nurses, and paramedics in two Boeing 747 jumbo jets to Nepal, who were tasked with setting up field hospitals in the most affected areas. These field hospitals were capable of treating 200 or more people per day. The jets also carried 95 tons of humanitarian aid and medical supplies, and over 100 other aid workers, soldiers, and disaster relief experts from the IDF. The IDF sent a 260 member search-and-rescue team to help find survivors under rubble and debris. The field hospital set up by the Israelis treated over 100 people on it's first day functioning, and even delivered a healthy baby boy. With room and expertise to treat a wide variety of injuries and issues, the field hospital operated in coordination with the local army hospital.

Magen David Adom, Israel's official disaster rescue and response agency, sent a plane carrying paramedics, medical supplies, and baby formula to the affected areas early in the morning on April 26. Upon arrival these paramedics set up aid stations at local Chabad houses and other community areas. Officials from IsraAID arrived in Nepal on April 27 to assess the initial situation and determine the need for supplies ahead of a larger humanitarian effort in the coming weeks.

Four Israelis who were attempting the climb Mount Everest but were stranded and trapped by the avalanche were rescued on April 26 with non life-threatening injuries and taken back to Israel. The Israeli government believed that there were approximately 50 Israeli tourists who had been stranded by the earthquake, and began rescue and recovery efforts looking for these individuals on April 27. The body of the last unnacounted for Israeli in Nepal was found on May 3, 2015. Or Assraf had been in Nepal on a hiking trip, and when he was not accounted for following the quake, his IDF unit launched a search and rescue mission including Assraf's father. Assraf had fought in Operation Protective Edge in the Egoz unit of the IDF, and was lightly wounded while helping his more seriously injured comrades during the battle for Shuja'iyyah.

Because surrogacy is illegal for same-sex couples in Israel, many homosexual couples choose to have their surrogate child born to a mother in a different country. It is popular for these couples to choose a surrogate from Nepal, with many staying in Nepal for months after the baby is born before coming back to Israel. The Israeli military began evacuating Israeli couples and their surrogate-born babies from Nepal immediately, with the first plane to return to Israel carrying three newborns and their families. On April 27, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials stated that there were approximately 22 other Israeli surrogate children and their parents waiting to be rescued.

The Israeli medical teams finally came back to Israel on May 11, 2015, after 2 weeks of working in disaster-stricken areas of Nepal. During the two weeks that the Israeli field hospitals were operating at full capacity, Israeli doctors carried out 85 surgeries on seriously injured Nepalese civilians, and delivered eight babies. In total, the Israeli field hospitals treated 1,427 patients. Engineers from the IDF stayed in Nepal after the closing of the field hospitals to continue to assist with infrastructure evaluation

Source: Gross, Judah Ari/Beck, Jonathan. “IDF hospital in Kathmandu closed in official ceremony,” Times of Israel (May 10, 2015)
Reuters. “Israel begins evacuating babies born to surrogate mothers in Nepal,” The Gaurdian (April 27, 2015)
Associated Press. “The latest on Nepal quake: Death toll 4,438 in 3 countries,” The New York Times (April 26, 2015)
Lidman, Melanie. “Israel to set up a field hospital in Nepal as aid efforts ramp up,” Times of Israel (April 26, 2015)
AFP. “First Israeli plane carrying survivors of Nepal quake lands,” I24 News (April 27, 2015)
Balachandran, Manu. “Indian helicopters, Israeli hospitals, and Malaysian medics: How the world is coming to Nepal's aid,” Quartz (April 27, 2015)
Lazaroff, Tovah/Udasin, Sharon. “Israel sending planes to rescue citizens from Nepal after earthquake,” The Jerusalem Post (April 26, 2015)