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Several Israelis still missing in New Zealand

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Up to four Israelis who were in Christchurch, New Zealand at the time of the earthquake remain missing and are feared dead.

On Wednesday, Israel’s consul to New Zealand, Teddy Poplinger, said that his staff is working to contact all Israelis who were reported to be in the area of the quake when it struck on Tuesday.

"There is a list of Israelis who have yet to make contact. We are more worried about three or four of them because they were last seen around town prior to the earthquake," Poplinger told Israeli media Wednesday.

Israeli backpacker Ofer Mizrahi, 23, was among 75 people confirmed killed in the quake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and devastated the city of Christchurch. As of Wednesday evening, some 300 people were still listed as missing and many were known to be trapped in buildings. The city’s Chabad center was destroyed in the quake. 

Israel, which has hundreds of nationals trekking in New Zealand every year, offered to send food and medicine to help; the Magen David Adom is assessing the possibility of sending rescue personnel. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there were up to 150 Israelis in Christchurch at the time of the quake.

Prime Minister John Key, the son of a Jewish refugee who escaped Europe on the eve of the Holocaust, called the disaster New Zealand’s “darkest day.”

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