Within hours of arriving yesterday (January 28) at the site of the dam collapse disaster in Brazil, the Israeli aid delegation began locating and recovering bodies of victims from the thick sludge unleashed by the burst dam.

Some 300 people were presumed missing following last Friday’s disaster at an iron-ore mine.

Access to the area is only possible by helicopters that were made available to the Israeli delegation by the Brazilian army. First, contained areas were scanned by specially trained search dogs in the IDF Oketz Canine Unit. Those findings enabled the rescue-and-recovery experts to pinpoint where to retrieve bodies from the mud.

IDF soldiers heading out to recover bodies in the Brazil dam collapse disaster, January 2019. Photo: courtesy

The 130-plus Israeli delegation includes, among others, soldiers from the IDF Home Front Command, firefighters, navy divers and volunteers from the ZAKA International Rescue Unit who are working together round the clock at the site of the disaster. Two of the soldiers are natives of Brazil.

ZAKA volunteers loading bodies in a helicopter after recovery at the dam collapse site in Brazil. Photo: courtesy

“The scope of the disaster is huge,” said volunteer and ZAKA head of special operations Haim Weingarten. “The experience that we have accumulated in ZAKA over the years at many disasters around the world helps us greatly in the field.

“Already on the first day of operations, we were able to identify several areas with high potential for the remains of those who would not have survived the mudslide. There is much work for us to do here in the deep mud. The professional cooperation between all the different members of the Israeli delegation contributes significantly to the success of those working in the field.”