IDF Sends Rescue Team to Ghana

The IDF's Home Front Command sent a rescue team Thursday morning to Accra, Ghana following the collapse of a six-story mall.

Chana Ya'ar , | updated: 2:40 PM

Home Front Command emergency drill
Home Front Command emergency drill
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The IDF's Home Front Command sent an 18-member rescue team Thursday morning to Accra, Ghana following the collapse of a six-story building that housed a mall.

Dozens of people were believed to be trapped under the rubble of the building, officials said. The aircraft departed from the Nevatim air force base in the Negev, led by National Rescue Division Commander General Ramtine Sabti. Included among the members of the team are physicians and other rescue personnel with technical experience in disaster relief.

Three deaths have been confirmed and 51 people rescued alive so far.

Ghana's presidency announced the arrival of the 18-strong team from Israel in a statement following Wednesday's collapse of the Melcom shopping center in the capital Accra, which sparked desperate rescue attempts.

"The team will make an initial assessment of the site using special equipment and sniffer dogs that will help identify the locations of possible survivors or corpses," the statement from President John Dramani Mahama's office said.

"An additional team of about 150 with additional equipment including field hospitals, concrete cutters, among others, are on standby to move to Ghana should the initial assessment deem it necessary."

The statement said that at least 51 people had so far been rescued alive from the rubble. Police had said some 50 employees worked at the building, but it has not been determined how many people were inside at the time of the collapse, which was said to have occurred ahead of opening time, AFP reported. Mahama suspended his campaign for the December 7 presidential and parliamentary elections in the West African nation and ordered a probe into the collapse, with the cause yet to be determined.

Israel's Home Front Command has previously assisted in numerous overseas search and rescue efforts. Israel was one of the first on the scene after natural disasters in Japan following the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that sent three out of six of the Fukushima nuclear reactors into meltdown.

In Haiti, the IDF and the ISRAID organization set up a field hospital after a January 2010 earthquake devastated the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince. The IDF sent teams immediately following the temblor, who began helping with search and rescue efforts on the island.