With supplies rapidly dwindling and nightfall settling over the nation, Chabad of Nepal continues to provide food and aid to those in need following a massive 7.8 earthquake that devastated the country and left much of the capital of Kathmandu in ruins.
“Chabad is serving hot meals to all comers every hour on the hour,” wrote Chabad emissary Chani Lifshitz on the official Chabad of Nepal Facebook page. “Kathmandu looks like a ghost town. Our electricity, phone service and water have been cut off, and little by little our staples are running out.”
Relief efforts are taking on a renewed urgency as many residents in Kathmandu and other areas are sleeping outside on dirt, gravel, anywhere-away from the broken, teetering buildings. Rain is forecast for the city, with temperatures likely to dip into the 50s overnight. Temperatures elsewhere in the country, such as up at the mountain base camps where the hikers gather, is hovering around 30 degrees.
Across Nepal, more than 2,200 people are reported dead and some 4,500 injured in the aftermath. Those numbers are expected to rise in the coming days as rescuers get closer to the epicenter of the quake region and continue to search through the debris. Avalanches on Mount Everest have stranded hikers, and caused at least 18 deaths. Major aftershocks-the strongest measuring a 6.7 on the Richter scale-are causing additional damage as the Nepalese government pleads for international aid to arrive quickly, as there is little food, water or shelter.
On the ground in the middle of it all, Rabbi Chezky and Chani Lifshitz-who direct the Chabad House of Kathmandu and the Chabad House of Pokhara-have become the main link for hundreds of people and their center a haven for them.
Many young Israeli backpackers tour Nepal after finishing their military service back home. Despite the fact that the Chabad house sustained some damage, they have turned it into a crisis center and shelter, providing food and lodging.
“We are still here at the Chabad center (making a makeshift refugee camp, as it were),” Chani Lifshitz wrote online at 4 p.m. local time today, adding that “every effort by each and every one of you to help in any way will be greatly appreciated, whether it’s materially or spiritually … .”
Indeed, Facebook in particular and social media in general have become crucial in getting out the word about in the dire situation in Nepal. As more than 150 Israelis remain unaccounted for, the Chabad couple is working with authorities and rescue organizations to compile updated lists of people who have been found or remain missing.
Worst Disaster in 80 Years
Many consider this to be the worst quake to hit the impoverished South Asian country in 80 years.
Hospitals are overcrowded, with the government struggling to keep up with the wounded.
Israel has pledged to help in any way it can, with a planeload of medical personnel is set to land in Nepal this evening. Two El Al planes-including the one with medical personnel-are en route to Nepal and are expected to arrive in the next few hours to help those on the ground and enable the evacuation of Israelis from the region, according to an airline spokesperson.
The Israeli military is sending 260 trained personnel to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake. The IDF team will focus on search and rescue and creating a full field hospital, which will be operational within 12 hours of landing. Other aid and search and rescue teams from Israel are either in or on their way to the region. Other aid and search and rescue teams are on the scene or on their way as well.
Sadly, this is not the Lifshitzes’ first brush with tragedy. Following a blizzard in October that killed four Israelis and trapped some 250 others in the mountains and surrounding area, the couple became an essential link assisting families in making contact with their loved ones, supplying tourists with food and clothing, helping to coordinate the rescue efforts and visiting those recovering in hospitals.
They were also involved with the efforts to return the bodies of two Israeli women who were killed last year in a bus crash on a mountain road in Nepal.
The couple received an award from the Israeli government in recognition of their exemplary efforts regarding the blizzard, in addition to a certificate from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.