Israel sends emergency aid team to volcano-struck Guatemala

by Avi Abelow

The recent volcano eruption in Guatemala had devastating effects. As of now, more than 100 people are dead as a result of the eruption. Many are still missing.  As in other major world disasters, Israel was quick to react.  Israel immediately reached out with various forms of emergency aid.

Emergency Aid

Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted a personal message.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry also sent money to help them buy vital medicines, food and blankets.

Israeli NGOs on the Scene As Well

3,000 people already evacuated from the surrounding area.  More than two million people were affected.  Volcanic ash reached as far as Guatemala City, some 25 miles away.

Hundreds of Guatemalan rescue workers, including firefighters, police and soldiers, worked around the clock to help find any survivors they could.

Israeli NGO IsraAID sent a team of volunteers to distribute essential items such as mattresses, blankets and water. They will also conduct a comprehensive needs assessment in order to see what further help can be offered by the NGO.

“During emergency situations, needs on the ground change very rapidly. We are committed to remaining flexible and responsive to the specific needs of the affected population,” said Ethan Schwartz, communications specialist for IsraAID.

“At the moment, our focus is to respond to the immediate disaster situation. As the situation unfolds, IsraAID will assess and decide on next steps,” he added.


Another Israeli NGO, ZAKA, was also on the ground.  They took part in the rescue effort also. Just last March, ZAKA had trained a local Guatemalan team of first responders, 45 in total. These responders immediately worked with the municipal search-and-rescue emergency forces in the disaster area.

Israeli ZAKA officials trained them in a three-day search-and-rescue course.  They designed the course to train for mass-casualty incidents just like this. The course was led by ZAKA and sponsored by the United Nations’ International Search and Rescue Advisory Group.

“At this stage, the combined teams are working with great care as the area is still very dangerous.  There is fear of further eruptions,” said Rabbi Joseph Garman.  Rabbi Garman has two hats.  He both serves as the chief rabbi in Guatemala and head of ZAKA Guatemala.

Goldstein said that Israeli ZAKA volunteers were also on standby  in Guatemala. “We are in constant contact with the local ZAKA volunteers and with the emergency services. If it is necessary, we will send additional ZAKA volunteers to offer assistance,” he said.

The Volcano Devastation

Many Guatemalan’s live near the Fuego volcano.  People who  lived their for decades claimed that they had never seen the mountain erupt like this before.  Unfortunately, very few people in the danger zone got out.  People had only seconds to run away.  The flow of lava was fast and furious.   It gave very little time for the villagers down below to escape.  Some rescuers also got caught in the smoke.  Entire villages are now rubble, and many unlucky people simply could not flee the volcanic destruction.  Toxic fumes from the volcano also killed many locals.  And it is not yet over.  But hopefully the worst is over and they will begin to rebuild their lives soon.

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