ZAKA Staging in Hong Kong for Japan’s Needs

by Erica Lyons

Just one year after the launch of ZAKA Hong Kong, Macau and China, disaster has struck the region. ZAKA is by no means a stranger to the region and has taken an active lead in recovery operations following the Tsunami in 2004 where they were instrumental in the systematic identification of thousands of bodies. They provided assistance following to the crash of On-Two-Go airlines in Phuket, Thailand in 2007 and to Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi ferry accident in that same year. In 2009, they immediately responded to the terror attacks in Mumbai.

As Japan gears up for the massive rescue and recovery operations that lie ahead, ZAKA has again responded. A team of four ZAKA volunteers, two from Israel and two from the United Kingdom have landed in Hong Kong this evening. They are scheduled to continue on to Japan.

Currently they are working from Hong Kong, through the night, to assess the current on the ground situation in Japan with respect to widespread concerns about radiation contamination. The safety of the team is a very real concern.

If all is clear, this international team of four along as well as one ZAKA Hong Kong, Macau and China volunteer, Nadav Sherman, will leave tomorrow morning for Tokyo to begin their on the ground work there. The team is being led Mati Goldstein.

Rafael Aharoni, President of ZAKA Hong Kong, Macau and China, has expressed the deepest sympathy and condolences for the victims of the disaster in Japan. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people. We are all willing to do all that we can to comfort the people of Japan. ZAKA Hong, Kong, Macau and China will continue to monitor the situation and is willing to provide additional support for relief efforts following this terrible tragedy.”

For additional information, on ZAKA please see their website.

update March 15 10:00 EDT: Given the volatile nature of the radio-active threat, the team is waiting in Hong Kong for the situation to stabilize. Evaluation assessments take place on a regular basis with the relevant personnel in Japan.

In the meantime, the ZAKA team is assisting with the humanitarian efforts taking place in Hong Kong, aimed at providing food and other basic needs for the communities in Japan, as well as the evacuees who are arriving in Hong Kong. They are working in close cooperation with Chabad representatives in Hong Kong and Japan, as well as other emergency personnel.

Asian Jewish Life and eJewish Philanthropy are partnering together, leveraging our global contacts, to bring first-hand information on how the Jewish/Israeli world is responding on the ground in the aftermath of the Japanese quake. For more, see Japanese earthquake updates.