Israel offers assistance to flood-ravaged Australia


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Israel has offered to help Australia as it continues to battle wild floods that have claimed the lives of at least 18 people.

Some 14 others are still missing in the flooding, which began last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to his Australian counterpart, Julia Gillard, on Sunday to offer assistance.

“I’m very sorry to hear about the destructive floods in Queensland and the loss of life," Netanyahu wrote. "I understand that the rain has continued non-stop for two weeks and that large parts of Queensland are in danger. If Israel can provide any aid, please do not hesitate to ask.”

Dozens of Jews in Queensland were affected by the floods, mainly in Brisbane, but no Jewish community institutions were affected, said Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies President Jason Steinberg.

“The really heartwarming thing is the number of Jewish community members who have requested to volunteer and the support from interstate," Steinberg said. "We’re hoping that communities around Australia will offer their support financially. A lot of people won’t have flood insurance. There will be people affected who will need help.”

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan told the Australian Broadcasting Company that "It looks like this is possibly going to be, in economic terms, the largest natural disaster in our history.”

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