"It's painful to see what is happening in the regions hit by disaster in Colombia. The country finally pulled out of a complex security situation in recent years, and was on the path to prosperity and development, and now it's been hit by nature. We will have to see how we cope with disaster here," said Global CST president Major-General (reserves) Yisrael Ziv. Global CST provides security consultancy and development services to overseas countries including the Colombian government.
Ziv, a former head of the IDF Operations Directorate and commander of the Gaza Division is close to the Colombian leadership. Two years ago, his name was linked to the training of the Colombian army special forces that freed presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt who was being held hostage by the FARC guerrilla organization.
Last week, Ziv returned to Israel after witnessing massive loss of life throughout Colombia due to floods and mudslides. He observed that in the past few weeks there has been unprecedented rainfall in the country and flooding throughout Colombia. He said, "Dams in regions close to cities have been breached and snow that has settled on the hilltops has caused huge mudslides and land erosion. In one instance in the Cali region, an entire hill collapsed on a playground and buried many dozens of children."
Sources in Colombia estimate that hundreds have been killed in the floods in recent weeks and two million people have been left homeless. Most of the damage has been in Medellin. Following the disaster, Israel sent a plane last week with over 50 tons of medicines, blankets and food.
The aid was coordinated between Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Ministry of Defense director general Udi Shani on the Israel side and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Colombian Ministry of Defense officials.
Ziv said, "The Colombian leaders declared a national state of emergency and every government minister is responsible for handling the catastrophe in the various regions of the country. The damage is vast and currently believed to amount to about $10 billion. They will have to rebuild highway infrastructures, buildings and dams and this work will cost a great deal. They'll have to build from scratch. Many countries, including its neighbor Ecuador, have sent aid but the assistance sent by Israel last week was the biggest and reflects the very close relations that have developed between the two countries in recent years."
Ziv explained that the Colombian leaders told him that they were moved by the Israeli aid and the assistance captured major media headlines in the South American country.
He said, "This was the most significant aid sent to the disaster-hit region. We shouldn't forget that all this happened only a few days after Israel needed international assistance to extinguish the Carmel forest fire and despite that we showed sensitivity to the problems of others."
He added, "We have to understand that in the global war all of us must cooperate because the world is changing and natural disasters have become a permanent reality. The way things look at the moment, this story in Colombia looks like being a long story."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 21, 2010
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