Israeli navy was first on the scene

Four navy ships of the newly formed state of Israel, under the command of Admiral Shlomo Erel, were sailing in international waters in the Mediterranean on August 12, 1953, when they received an SOS message from Cephalonia. Erel immediately gave the order to sail for the island. His men were the first of the international forces to land on the island. The quake had almost destroyed the capital, Argostoli, where cries of agony could be heard from those trapped under the rubble. Medical services were at a minimum, food supplies insufficient and the water supply network was destroyed. The Israeli crews split up into groups and formed rescue and first aid teams, supplying stretchers, medicine, water and the ships’ rations. Many of the injured were taken for treatment on board the Israeli ships, one of which ferried the more seriously injured to Patras. Israeli sailors also helped rescue people trapped in the ruins. Now, 50 years later, Admiral Shlomo Erel will be back in Cephalonia as one of the guests at the ceremony tomorrow evening in Argostoli, along with the governor of the naval base at Haifa, Rear Admiral Yuval. Two Israeli naval ships will be riding at anchor in the Bay of Argostoli, a reminder to the Cephalonians of that rescue mission so long ago.