Aftermath of Japan tsunami and earthquake
Aftermath of Japan tsunami and earthquake Israel news photo: US Navy

Israeli doctors are headed to Japan in response to an official request by Tokyo for aid from Jerusalem, with a first responder team of two doctors and one officer from Israel's Home Front Command having departed from Ben Gurion International Airport Saturday night.

The delegation will do a needs assessment on site in advance of a second team slated to arrive later, with medical equipment, more doctors and other medical professionals. The Foreign and Defense Ministries also are set to ship blankets, coats, gloves and porta-pots to the city of Kurihara. Survivors of the disasters have been streaming in to the city, having been transferred from nearby Sendai, where most of the worst damage is centered.

The Japanese ambassador was among those present at the airport to wish the team well on their trip and to express his country's gratitude for the aid. He noted that Israel was one of the first countries to send a medical team to the disaster area.

Israel was also the first country to offer assistance, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu making a call to the Japanese government a scant hour after hearing news of the tragic 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

On Thursday, Israel sent 100 Geiger counters to Japan, to help gauge the radiation levels among civilians in contaminated areas around the stricken nuclear reactors. Another 200 of the devices will be sent next week as well, following an urgent request by Japanese police and fire officials, according to a report by a Hebrew-language newspaper. The devices will be supplied by Rotem Industries, the Negev-based firm that supplies technology to Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona.