At least four Israelis may be dead or trapped alive in rubble from the New Zealand earthquake disaster, government officials said.
It was publicized yesterday that Israeli backpacker Ofer Mizrachi, of Kibbutz Magal, southeast of Haifa, was reported by his friends to have been killed, but there has been no official confirmation. He is known to have been struck by a concrete beam that rammed through a car in which he was riding, and friends said they were unable to evacuate him.
New Zealand officials fear that further building collapses in Christchurch could raise the death toll from an estimated 75 to beyond 100.
Fears for the fate of missing Israelis have risen because they have not contacted relatives. Approximately 120 Israelis are estimated to be traveling or residing in the area of the quake. Most of the Israelis were not in Christchurch when the earthquake struck at midday Tuesday, according to Israel’s New Zealand Consul Teddy Poplinger.
The earthquake destroyed the Chabad Center in the center of Christchurch. People inside the building escaped by running out as the building fell, said Rabbi Samuel Freedman.
“We are getting everybody together now at the square to see if anybody is missing, and we are working very hard to help everybody,” he added.
His wife Tzipi told Chabad media that people erected tent cities in Christchurch after their homes were destroyed. The Freedmans' home remains standing although “everything inside is ruined.”
“Everyone’s just trying to evacuate. It’s really hectic right now,” she said. “Everyone is going to be sleeping in tents tonight.”