A ZAKA delegation - made up of both US and Israeli volunteers, and including ZAKA director Mati Goldstein - arrived in the Philippines over the weekend. The delegation includes senior medics, EMTs, and experienced international aid relief workers. They arrived to help treat survivors of Typhoon Heiyan, which devastated the island nation last week, leaving tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands missing.
Before departing, the ZAKA crew met with the Philippines Ambassador to Israel and coordinated with IDF forces already stationed there to determine the best site of deployment.
Upon arrival, the ZAKA team was welcomed by Patrick Fuller of the International Federation of the Red Cross and head of the region, with whom they have worked together during past natural disasters and terrorist attacks, including the Japan tsunami, the hurricane that destroyed major parts of Haiti, and the killings in Mumbai.
The volunteers landed Friday; they spent Shabbat with the Chabad Rabbi in Manila, Rabbi Yossi Levy. Levy has reportedly devoted as much time, energy, and resources as possible to help the rescue mission at ZAKA's side. Saturday night, the delegation, Levy, and other local volunteers left for the most disaster-stricken areas with rescue equipment.
The ZAKA website reports that Goldstein worked with the IDF to help reshift aid zones to be based on priority of care, level of damage, and need of response within each geographical area.
Goldstein notes that “the devastation we have seen here, and the amount of individuals and families displaced from their homes, is difficult to bear, and we are doing all that we can to assess the country’s needs and ease the burden. A day after we got here, we went to three islands where no rescue operations had been initiated as of yet; we arrived in a broken raft-like boat and tried helping the injured who were in need of assistance.”
In addition to bringing in food supplies, ZAKA members are also reportedly distributing candy and snacks to Filipino children.
More pictures of ZAKA's recovery efforts are below.