Monday, December 13, 2010
Israel sends humanitarian aid delegation to Colombia
Delegation will bring approximately 45 metric tons of equipment to Colombia to help flood victims; over 60 remain missing.
The IDF and the Defense Ministry sent a humanitarian aid delegation on Sunday to provide medical care and services to the flood victims in Colombia.
Colombia is suffering its worst rains in 42 years of record-keeping – deluges that have left thousands of homes under water, damaged thousands of hectares of crops and blocked numerous highways with landslides.
The Israeli delegation will carry approximately 45 metric tons of equipment to Colombia, including 20 tons of dry foods, five thousand medical kits, 2,000 blankets, 1,000 ponchos, one thousand mattresses and 100 tents.
Head of the Home Front Command’s National Search and Rescue Unit Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Ben-Arye said, “The IDF instructed the Home Front Command to send a humanitarian aid delegation to the Colombian flood victims. We are to land in Colombia, distribute the aid and return only once our mission is completed.”
Deputy General Manager of the Defense Ministry Bezalel Treiber added, “Over the past two days there has been a rapid deployment, including approximately 50 tons of equipment. The delegation will now set out for Colombia. I wish to thank the delegation staff, the Home Front Command and the Defense Ministry and wish them luck on their mission.”
By the end of last week, rescuers had recovered 55 bodies – nearly half of them children – from a poor, hillside neighborhood in the Medellin suburb of Bello, which had disappeared four days earlier under tons of sodden earth. More than 60 remained missing.
The National Office of Disaster Relief says that more than 200 have died in floods and landslides this year – not counting the disaster in Bello, located about 275 kilometers northwest of the capital, Bogota.
“The damage is incalculable,” President Juan Manuel Santos told Colombians as he declared a national emergency last Tuesday.
The government has spent more than $265 million this year to address problems associated with the rains and is committed to spending more than $530m. more, Santos said.
In addition, the United States, the European Union, North Korea and Switzerland are among public and private donors that have pledged more than $21m. thus far to a governmentcreated relief committee.
But that isn’t nearly enough.
“The government is talking about a billion [Colombian pesos] here, another billion there,” said Alejandro Gaviria, chairman of the economics department of Bogota’s Universidad de los Andes. “Surely those estimates are going to fall short. Where is the government going to get the money?”
Among the consequences of this year’s unusually heavy rains – nearly a quarter of Colombia’s 130,000 kilometers of paved highways have been flooded, ruptured or blocked by falling earth and rocks, said Carlos Rosado, director of the National Highway Institute.
Meanwhile, more than 41,000 of the nation’s 25 million cattle drowned or went missing in landslides, said Jose Felix Lafaurie, president of the Colombian Cattlemen’s Federation.
Nearly 110,000 of Colombia’s nearly five million hectares of planted crops are flooded, another 85,000 hectares partially. More than 450,000 metric tons of crops, or about 1.3 percent of overall production, have been lost, at a cost of about $450m., according to Rafael Mejia, president of Colombia’s farmer’s society.
Rice producers calculate they’ve lost more than 20,000 of their 450,000 hectares of land under cultivation, while sugar producers have lost about 20,000 of their nearly 208,000 hectares.