Two Russian government planes are currently making their way to Israel, one carrying the victims' families and the other carrying doctors, medical equipment, psychologists and rescue teams, Russian news agencies reported Tuesday.
The mission seeks to help in the aftermath of the fatal bus crash that claimed the lives of 25 Russian travel agents from St. Petersburg. Another 33 passengers were injured after the bus they were riding flipped over and plunged down a
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently in a visit to London, expressed sorrow over the terrible tragedy and the large number of casualties.
The prime minister was briefed on the accident's details and said he was shocked by its "horrific outcome." Olmert conveyed his condolences to the Russian president and the victims' families.
Nine of the wounded are currently hospitalized at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, one in critical condition and the others in serious condition.
Another 18 casualties have been evacuated to hospitals in central Israel during the evening. Two were flown in by a helicopter to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem and the rest were transported by plane to the military airfield in Lod and from there taken to the Sheba, Assaf Harofeh and Beilinson medical centers.
Hotline opened in St. Petersburg
A special emergency hotline began operating at the Jewish community center in St. Petersburg following reports of the fatal bus crash in Eilat Tuesday afternoon.
Though details about the casualties have yet to be released, a community representative, Haim Baruch, estimated that at least some of the victims were Jewish.
In the first half hour after the hotline was opened over 100 calls had already been received.
The Jewish Agency has contacted the Russian embassy in Israel and offered to provide whatever assistance required by the families. The JA's envoys in St. Petersburg also have been instructed to prepare to extend help to members of the Jewish community in the city should this becomes necessary.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry and the Tourism Ministry have begun operating a situation room aimed at facilitating the communication with the Russian embassy in Israel and the Russian government.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni conveyed her condolences to her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov following the crash and assured him that Israel would do its utmost to expedite treatment of the injured and assist their families. The two agreed to keep each other updated on developments.
Livni also spoke with the governor of St. Petersburg Valentina Matviyenko and briefed her on the fatal accident.
Livni provided Matviyenko with the details of the accident and stressed that the Foreign Ministry is willing to extend any assistance necessary to the casualties and the Russian authorities.