SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Two more Israeli bodies were identified in New Zealand, and at least two others remain missing since last week’s devastating earthquake.
The dead Israelis, Ofer Levy and Gabi Engel, 22-year-olds from Rehovot, were found in Christchurch Tuesday by New Zealand search and rescue personnel, Israeli officials confirmed. The families were notified Tuesday morning in Israel.
Israel is now mourning three nationals killed in the Feb. 22 earthquake. The body of 23-year-old Ofer Mizrachi, from Kibbutz Magal near Haifa, was identified Sunday and has been returned to Israel for burial.
A two-minute silence was held across New Zealand exactly one week after the disaster. The official death toll has risen to 155, but police are estimating that it could run as high as 240.
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Wellington confirmed that two other Israelis, reportedly from Dimona, remain unaccounted for, although one was last sighted on the north island. Neither has contacted his family since the blast ripped through the south island’s largest city last week.
“The family is devastated, as any family would be after losing its youngest son under such surprising circumstances,” Ofer Levy’s uncle, Yaakov Levy, told Ynet Tuesday. “We had hopes up to the last minute. … We did what we could; no stone was left unturned.”
Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Friedman recited El Maleh Rachamim, Kaddish and Psalms as the bodies of Levy and Engel were handed over for repatriation on Tuesday.