Ofer Levy
Gabi Engle

NZ: Rescue teams search for missing Israelis

Four days after mass earthquake, Ofer Levy's uncle arrives in Christchurch together with two Israeli rescue teams in hopes of finding nephew, friend. 'We haven't lost hope,' he says

The more time passes since the devastating earthquake that hit New Zealand Monday the less chances there are of survivors being found. Four days after the tremor, Yaakov Levy, the uncle of one missing Israeli has arrived in quake-stricken Christchurch in search for him. Currently 15 Israelis are considered missing in New Zealand, data from Israel's Embassy in the country suggests.


Ofer Levy and Gabi Engle were making their way from their hostel to meet a winegrower in the hopes of landing a job with him when the mass earthquake hit Christchurch. So far two Israeli private rescue teams have arrived in New Zealand in search of the two.  


"The area that was affected is sealed off. Hundreds of local rescue personnel and volunteers from around the world are working to trace survivors. We are trying to get as many details about Ofer and Gabi in the meantime," Levy said. "Currently they are not allowing outside rescue teams to operate but have set up a special Foreign Ministry war room and their representatives are helping us. "


Levy described the chaos in the city. "The destruction is all too evident. I managed to sneak into the city center for a short while and we started working vigorously to trace them. We haven't lost hope and the search continues in the assumption they are alive."

Gabi (Left) and Ofer. 'We haven't lost hope'


Shai Lanuel, a member of the Magnus International Search and Rescue company currently working in New Zealand said: "Rescue efforts are currently concentrated on two tall buildings that have collapsed, each housing some 100 people."


He described the somber atmosphere. "Sadly they are not talking about rescuing but about tracing. They don't estimate there are any survivors under the rubble and that is why they won’t allow anyone to approach the area for fear the buildings will collapse. "


Hilik Magnus, the company's director said that his teams are preparing to stay in New Zealand for a considerable amount of time.

Piles of rubble in Christchurch (Photo: AFP) 


Meanwhile, Israelis residing in New Zealand have joined rescue efforts. One of them is Yifat Or Shahar who has been living in the country for the past six years. "They weren't equipped for emergency situations. There wasn't enough equipment and that caused a situation where in order to pull out people from the rubble they were forced to cut their body parts."


However, Yifat remains hopeful especially in the face of the Israeli crews' arrival. "True, no survivors were found in the last few hours but we believe Gabi and Ofer will be found alive soon. Contrary to other reports, forces here continue to search for signs of life."


Back in Rehovot, Ofer's father continues to hope for the best. "I don’t know exactly what's going on, the locals are working by the book. We’re hoping for the best."  


Ronen Medzini contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 02.25.11, 15:08
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