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Smoke rises from a burning building in a Tokyo neighborhood after an 8.9-magnitude earthquakes hit Japan, March 11, 2011. Hikosaemon/CC

Jewish organizations are mobilizing their responses to the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on Friday.

IsraAid, an Israel-based coordinating organization for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups, said Friday that it has two teams of rescue personnel, emergency medical personnel and water pollution experts ready to deploy to Japan but was looking for ways to reach the affected area.

ZAKA to send search and rescue teams from Israel and Hong Kong to Japan Saturday evening
Following the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan and after consultation with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and with emissaries from the Chabad organization in Japan, the ZAKA International Rescue Unit will send a team of trained volunteers from Israel , headed by the ZAKA International Rescue Unit co-directors Mati Goldstein and Dovi Maisel, on Saturday evening (after the conclusion of the Sabbath) to help in search and rescue efforts in Japan.

In addition, another team from the ZAKA International Rescue Unit based in Hong Kong will leave for the quake area after the conclusion of the Sabbath in their region.

The ZAKA International Rescue Unit volunteers will be met by the Israel Ambassador to Japan Nissim Ben Sheetrit. The specially trained ZAKA volunteers will join the international search and rescue efforts in an effort to save as many lives as possible.

The UN-recognized, Israel-based ZAKA International Rescue Unit has assisted at natural disasters around the world, including Haiti (the first Israeli delegation to arrive on the scene, the tsunami in Thailand and the hurricane in New Orleans.

Because the airports in the affected area are flooded and Tokyo’s airport closed on Friday, IsraAid said it was exploring the possibility of flying to a nearby country and then trying to make it to northeast Japan, where the tsunami has killed hundreds and devastated cities and towns.

“We’re in touch with local groups to check the situation in the area,” Shachar Zahavi, chairman of the group, told JTA in a telephone interview. “We’re trying to get to the closest airport and then get to the affected area from there.”

The Japanese consul in Israel, Mitoshiko Shinomya, told the Israeli news website Ynet that he was heartened by an Israeli government offer of assistance to Japan.

“Israel officially offered its help an hour after the earthquake struck,” Shinomya said. “It is very heart-warming, but at this point we do not know exactly what the extent of the damage is, so it is difficult for us to say what can be done.”

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement reported Friday that its emissary in Tokyo said the Jewish community there largely was spared any serious injury or damage from the 8.9-magnitude quake that rocked the city Friday morning.

JTA Wire Service