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Israel Responds to India’s Quake

February 1, 2001

BHUJ, India (AP) _ Tiny ``Israela″ is the pride of a medical camp set up by Israelis in the earthquake-crippled city of Bhuj.

In the pediatric tent, the hospital’s youngest patient lies in a $20,000 incubator.

Born Wednesday at 27 weeks and weighing less than 2 pounds, Israela’s parents had hesitated to treat her because they already had one child and her father earns only a dollar a day.

``Twenty-seven weeks is a big challenge in any country,″ said Dr. Abargel Avi, who delivered the infant. ``But she’s really doing fine.″

``Her chances are very good,″ added Dr. Jacob Kuint, head of the hospital’s pediatric ward. ``We gave her a little oxygen, fluid and antibiotics, and she is very stable.″

Israel has responded to India’s devastating earthquake with its biggest military disaster-relief mission in two decades, bringing medical aid for thousands of injured survivors.

On Thursday, just days after the 7.7-magnitude quake struck, a stream of people hobbled or arrived on stretchers at the well-guarded gate of the Israeli Defense Force field hospital in Bhuj. Rows of khaki tents housed orthopedic, obstetric and pediatric wards and an array of state-of-the-art medical equipment.

Bhuj’s general hospital was destroyed in the earthquake, along with most homes in this town of 150,000 people.

The airborne Israeli mission touched down Tuesday evening in Bhuj carrying the 70-bed field hospital capable of treating 1,000 patients a day. The camp staff of 190 includes 30 physicians.

Most of those arriving at the hospital were injured in the earthquake and are only now receiving treatment. They include a 1-year-old girl whose skull fracture went undiagnosed for five days and a toddler whose foot was crushed in the quake.

``We’ve seen an unbelievable number of fractures and crush amputations,″ the mission’s spokesman, Jonathan Gutfarb said. ``Our orthopedic crew are incredibly tired.″

The relief mission is the biggest and longest launched by the Israeli military since the early 1980s, he said.

``Our previous expeditions were search and rescue, but this time, as we are arriving a bit late, we are focusing on medical treatment,″ he said.

Demand is expected to increase as word of the facility filters out through the chaos of ravaged Bhuj. Gutfarb said the mission is slated to last two weeks, but may be extended.

``Until now, thank God, we are not seeing the start of any epidemics of disease,″ he said. ``If we do, we won’t be going home in two weeks.″

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