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Haiti Earthquake 2010

“The stench of thousands of bodies is everywhere”

ZAKA’s delegation was one the first search and rescue team to arrive in Haiti: they disembarked just 24 hours after the earthquake. After assessing the situation with the local emergency forces, the team immediately set to work.

The Results:

  • ZAKA pulled eight students alive from the rubble of a university, just 38 hours after the building collapsed
  • ZAKA helped recover numerous bodies from the ruins, including missing Canadian Jewish businessman Alexander (Shmuel) Bitton after a month-long search

The team described their “Shabbat from hell” in a disturbing email that says it all: “The stench of thousands of bodies is everywhere. You have to understand that the situation is true madness. With every passing minute, there are more and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension.”

ZAKA volunteers worked tirelessly alongside international emergency forces:

  • Ongoing search, rescue and recovery
  • Forensic identification
  • Skilled medical assistance at the IDF emergency field hospital

Haiti was a turning point in search and rescue missions: the global community realized that relying on international emergency forces in a time of disaster was not enough.

In response, ZAKA developed a light search and rescue training course—the first of its kind— to enable locals to help themselves before the arrival of international emergency forces. This prescient setup helps save many more lives, and is much more cost-effective for governments.


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