As the death toll rises to over 2500 in Kathmandu, Nepal, after a 7.8 earthquake on Saturday and equally terrifying aftershocks reaching magnitudes of 6.7, rescue and medical teams from across the globe are heading towards the country. With the Nepalese airports in disarray, two El Al planes of Israeli rescue teams were delayed—but finally left Israel on Sunday night.
The flights will bring home Israelis stranded in Kathmandu—a popular destination for young Israelis who now find themselves stranded far from home, without means of obtaining food or shelter, and no way of getting onto a commercial flight home.
“It is dangerous to remain inside buildings, an aftershock could cause the building to topple on its inhabitants,” says Chezki Lifshitz, who stops in middle of the call to run outside of the Chabad Houses, as aftershock tremors begin, some being felt as far as New Delhi, India. “The Chabad House has a huge open space outside, uncommon in the city,” he explains, which has now become a relatively safe place for survivors to wait the crisis out.
With over 180 Israelis still unaccounted for in the country, the Chabad House in Nepal has continued to be the central location many of the two-thousand Israeli backpackers. Chani Lifshitz reports that the city is in the dark, the Chabad House, is running off generators and the phones are working sporadically.
“The country is devastated, buildings that once proudly stood are now rubble, streets that once were bustling are now deserted,” says Chani. “Our backyard has become a refugee camp and people are in a daze.”
The Chabad representatives are serving meals every hour on the hour, but supplies are running low according to Chani. “With food low and difficulties obtaining food from local sources, we need to bring food from out of the country,” she says. “And we need funds to make this possible.”
Among those who’ve made their way to Chabad, many have nothing but the clothing on their back. Many are injured. The need, say the Lifshitzs, for clothing and basic medical provisions is urgent. “At this time we need all the help we can get to help those on the ground to survive the current destruction,” the rabbi says.
To assist relief efforts visit the Nepal Jewish Relief Fund.