Dozens of Israelis and their newborn surrogate-born children were trapped in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu without shelter or medical care Saturday after the catastrophic earthquake that shook the Himalayan country.
As night fell, the Israeli government weighed airlifting the children and their parents to hospitals in India for treatment because of their condition.
The couples, along with 24 babies — nine of which were prematurely born — were trapped in Kathmandu, Ynet reported. One of the infants was in serious condition.
Many of the parents and their children were brought to the courtyard of the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu, Channel 2 reported. Hundreds more Israeli travelers found shelter at the Chabad House in Kathmandu.
“Some of the babies are premature and in not such a good state of health and therefore it’s at the top of our priorities,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told Channel 2. “We’re considering sending a helicopter from India to Kathmandu and that way we can take the whole group and bring the children to a hospital as soon as possible for them to receive proper treatment.”
Commercial flights to and from Kathmandu were terminated earlier Saturday after the international airport shut due to the earthquake. Israel plans to dispatch a search and rescue unit to Kathmandu and set up a field hospital, and to fly Israelis in Nepal back home, but rescue operations are on hold until the international airport reopens.
The Foreign Ministry said that there were no known Israeli deaths from the catastrophic earthquake, whose death toll continued to climb Saturday, with nearly 1,200 already pronounced dead after night fell. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that there were a number of Israelis who suffered minor injuries, but no severe cases.
One of the Israeli parents took to Facebook to plead for help after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the capital.
“We’re saved, but we need help,” Alon Michaeli Molian wrote on Facebook. “We’re still out in the open, 10 Israeli families with children and newborn babies. We can’t return to our rooms and apartments in the hotel out of fear of [its] collapse. I know that efforts are being made but I have no idea how we’ll survive this night.”
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan okayed a move to let the children come to Israel with their parents and delay the bureaucratic formalities until after their arrival in the country.
Nepalese officials said at least 1,170 people are known to have died in Nepal, making it the quake-prone Himalayan nation’s worst disaster in more than 80 years.
But the final toll from the 7.8 magnitude quake could be much higher, and dozens more people were reported killed in neighboring India and China.
“The death toll has reached 1,170,” Nepal police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told AFP, adding that rescue efforts were still underway.
Emergency workers fanned out across the Himalayan nation to rescue those trapped under collapsed homes, buildings and other debris.
Offers of help poured in from governments around the world, with the United States and the European Union announcing they were sending in disaster response teams.
“Deaths have been reported from all regions except the far west. All our security personnel have been deployed to rescue and assist those in need,” Bam told AFP.
The Red Cross (IFRC) said it was concerned about the fate of rural villages close to the epicenter of the quake northwest of the capital Kathmandu.
“Roads have been damaged or blocked by landslides and communication lines are down preventing us from reaching local Red Cross branches to get accurate information,” said IFRC Asia/Pacific director Jagan Chapagain in a statement.
Officials said 10 people were killed when an avalanche buried parts of Mount Everest’s base camp in Nepal where hundreds of mountaineers have gathered at the start of the annual climbing season.
“We don’t have the details yet, but 10 have been reported dead so far, including foreign climbers,” Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha, an official in Nepal’s tourism department, told AFP.
“We are trying to assess how many are injured. There might be over 1,000 people there right now, including foreign climbers and Nepalese supporting staff.”
AFP Nepal bureau Chief Ammu Kannampilly, on an assignment to Everest together with a colleague, was among those caught up in the chaos.
“We are both ok… snowing here so no choppers coming,” she said in an SMS on an approach to base camp. “I hurt my hand – got it bandaged and told to keep it upright to stop the bleeding.”
Experienced mountaineers said panic erupted at base camp which had been “severely damaged”, while one described the avalanche as “huge”.
“Huge disaster. Helped searched and rescued victims through huge debris area. Many dead. Much more badly injured. More to die if not heli asap,” tweeted Romanian climber Alex Gavan from base camp.