Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Indonesian doctors to help identify quake victims in Nepal

Indonesian doctors will help identify victims of the large-scale earthquake that hit Nepal recently, according to the director of the Indonesian Citizen Protection division of the Foreign Ministry, Muhammad Iqbal.

Iqbal said in Jakarta on Wednesday that at least 13 doctors were expected to help identify up to 120 bodies evacuated from the avalanche in Langtang, Nepal.

The doctors visited Tribuvan Teaching University hospital in Kathmandu on Tuesday, Iqbal said as reported by The bodies to be identified, however, had not reached the hospital in Kathmandu as of Tuesday, so the identification process would start Wednesday.

The doctors are part of the Indonesian evacuation team, which consists of members of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the Air Force's special force Paskhas and volunteers.

Iqbal said that the team would remain in Kathmandu for a while to help the humanitarian aid operations.

The team, he went on, would help the search and rescue activities carried out by the Nepalese Military Forces following the powerful earthquake, which devastated parts of Nepal.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

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In Nepal, Rabbi’s search continues

The Nepal-based rabbi who has been a driving force in search and rescue is making daily visits to rows of bodies in a village near Kathmandu, expecting to discover more Jewish dead.

When the body of Or Asraf, the only Israeli fatality in the quake, was finally retrieved on Sunday, it was widely believed that all Jews missing in the quake have been accounted for. But Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz, director of Nepal Chabad, has serious doubts.

“We have already found some bodies with Jewish names in Langtang,” he reported. “We don’t know if they are Jewish, but we’re checking.”

He visits the rows of bodies that are outdoors in the notoriously tragic Langtang village because he thinks there is a high chance that families of missing Jews from Europe or America may not have contacted him or another Jewish organization.

He also thinks that information does not always flow correctly, even if details of religious persuasion have been reported by families to national authorities. He said that on Tuesday, he informed the German embassy of three Germans whom he had identified in his searching — and found that they were not actually considered missing.

Lifshitz examines the bodies of foreigners, which are usually separated out from Nepalese, and looks for names on documentation in wallets. Looking at facial features has become less relevant as time goes by. “It’s difficult after five or six days to see something like this [facial features],” he said.

As Lifshitz searched for more Jewish dead this week, Israeli backpackers were trying to absorb the news that Asraf has been confirmed dead. “It could have been me,” said Iyyar Schwartz, a 25-year-old who is finishing an eight-month stint travelling. “I also did that trek, and I know the area where he was.” She said that alongside the sense of tragedy, there is a feeling of thankfulness that the body was retrieved. “On the one hand it feels awful, but on the other hand we feel relieved that there’s a body to bury,” she said.

Israelis like Schwartz are grappling with what has happened around them. “People basically want to get out now and don’t know what to feel,” she said, as she departed Kathmandu, cutting her time in Nepal short and heading to Thailand. “I can’t believe that the village I stayed in doesn’t exist anymore and the people I met are probably not alive.”

Signs of the earthquake are visible everywhere in Kathmandu, with piles of rubble and collapsed buildings, and some of them are particularly haunting. At one building, rooms and even furniture are visible from the front, as part of the building collapsed while another part was left intact. Locals can be seen sorting through the rubble there for their family’s belongings. They say that some 27 people died there.

Ashraf’s body was found on a ridge following a complicated search operation by the Israelife Joint Disaster Response Team, which consists of volunteers from ZAKA, United Hatzolah and F.I.R.S.T. The team searched by foot through difficult terrain, in danger of mudslides, avalanches and rock falls.

Eli Beer, founder of the Israelife Foundation and president of United Hatzolah, said: “We are very sad that our mission has ended in this way. Throughout all the days of the search, we remained hopeful that we would find Or alive and bring him home to his family. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we found Or when he was no longer alive. We find some comfort in the fact that, as a result of the efforts of our volunteers, Or will be brought to burial in Israel.”

Wednesday 6 May 2015

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Four dead, nine missing following Indonesian landslide

Four people were killed and nine others remain missing after a landslide buried homes on Indonesia's main island of Java, an official said Wednesday.

A landslide triggered by a pipeline explosion on Tuesday engulfed eight homes and trapped villagers in a West Java village.

The pipeline, belonging to a geothermal project in the area, had been damaged in a previous landslide caused by days of torrential rain.

"The search for victims of the landslide continues," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

More than 100 residents, fearing further landslides, had taken refuge in a village hall, he added.

Landslides are common in Indonesia, one of the world's most natural-disaster prone nations.

The national disaster agency estimates around half the country's 250 million population live in areas prone to landslides.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

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After a disaster: Ensuring families can honour the dead

As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's assistance to communities affected by the Nepal Earthquake, the ICRC sent forensic expert Shuala Drawdy to help with our response.

Shuala talks about the role that she and her other colleagues are playing in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, which has left thousands dead and countless more injured and homeless.

The ICRC is supporting the Nepal Red Cross Society in their response to the escalating needs of families and affected communities. This includes restoring contact between family members separated by the earthquake, and providing critical first aid materials and support. Thanks to the availability of emergency kits, NRCS volunteers were among the first who arrived to treat the wounded and to rescue those still trapped.

The ICRC is also promoting proper and dignified management of dead bodies avoiding that unidentified bodies are cremated or hastily buried. To this end, we have provided 400 dead body bags to the Department of Forensics Medicine. In addition, 7 sets of dressing modules have been provided to the hospitals to treat quake injured people.

What assistance can an ICRC forensic expert provide?

Forensic experts from the ICRC can give advice and support to authorities and local experts on how forensic science can help address humanitarian challenges, such as how to deal with dead bodies.

After a disaster, the ICRC can offer guidance on gathering information about those who have died, and provide technical advice to ensure local systems can identify and properly manage dead bodies, with dignity while maintaining respect for cultural practices.

We also provide training to emergency responders in the recovery and transport of dead bodies, and to people who have the role of identifying the dead – so that their families can be located and bodies can be returned.

What is the current situation in Nepal and what assistance is being provided by the ICRC's Forensic Services?

The situation is quite challenging. The focus has been on searching for the wounded and on rescuing those trapped under rubble.

There are thousands of unrecovered bodies in the communities that were affected by the earthquake. The extent of the aftermath is not fully known, but in the areas the ICRC has had access to we have already begun to distribute body bags and assist these communities with how they can manage their dead.

The ICRC is also working directly with local authorities, providing advice and support as needed. It is essential that unidentified bodies are not cremated, so their families can have the opportunity to carry out their own funerary rites once identification has taken place.

Who deals with dead bodies after a disaster – the ICRC or the authorities?

The responsibility of managing dead bodies lies always the authorities—they have jurisdiction and this should be respected. However, the ICRC can provide assistance to local authorities if requested and required, and has the expertise to work with and provide support to families who are seeking missing relatives.

Are there any myths or perceptions about dead bodies that you would like to dispel?

The biggest myth is that dead bodies cause epidemics. This is not true. The bodies of people who have died in a disaster do not cause epidemics, because they have normally died as a result of traumatic injury, drowning or fire.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

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