Israel sent a military humanitarian rescue team to southeastern Brazil on January 27 following last Friday’s collapse of a dam at an iron-ore mine, burying an employee cafeteria in mining waste and mud.

At the time it was reported that at least 40 people were confirmed dead, 23 hospitalized and as many as 300 missing. The mud surging from the burst dam also damaged buildings and caused many residents of the town to flee.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently returned to Israel from meeting with Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, tweeted on Saturday night: ‏”I spoke with @jairbolsonaro following the dam collapse disaster in Brazil. I offered that Israel would dispatch aid to the disaster site and assist in the search for survivors. He thanked me and accepted my offer. We agreed than an Israeli mission would leave within 24 hours.”

ZAKA search-and-rescue workers departing Israel for Brazil on January 27. Photo: courtesy

Sunday morning, a delegation of ZAKA Search and Rescue volunteers took off for Brazil with an IDF Home Front Command delegation of 130 search-and-rescue, naval, engineering, firefighting and medical experts. Israeli Ambassador to Brazil Yossi Shelley accompanied the team on the journey aboard a special El Al flight.


Saving lives isn’t about how large the distance is, it’s about how far you’re willing to go. #IDFinBrazil ????????????????

Posted by Israel Defense Forces on Sunday, 27 January 2019

The mission followed 12 hours of discussions between Israeli and Brazilian officials to assess needs. The delegation brought along sophisticated equipment including a sonar device recently purchased by ZAKA to assist in similar missions.

“ZAKA has accumulated vast experience in search, rescue and recovery at dozens of mass casualty incidents and terror attacks around the world. With this experience and expertise, we are able to save lives and significantly contribute to the local search-and-rescue efforts. Our mission will focus on rescuing survivors, and search and recovery of those killed in the disaster,” said ZAKA International Rescue Unit commander Mati Goldstein.