Are we ready for big quake?

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By SARAH LEVI

Sun­day night’s tremors not only gave Is­raelis a bit of a shake-up, it also served as a wake-up call to both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors to get their acts to­gether to en­sure peo­ple’s safety and re­in­force struc­tures and in­fra­struc­tures.

The 7.2 mag­ni­tude earth­quake hit the bor­der of eastern Iraq and the north­west bor­der of Iran on Sun­day night and killed some 400 peo­ple in both coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey.

Af­ter­shocks were re­ported through­out the Mid­dle East and could be felt in parts of Is­rael, even though it is some 1,300 kilo­me­ters away from the point of im­pact.

On Mon­day morn­ing, as the death toll con­tin­ued to rise, the State of Is­rael sent con­do­lences to both coun­tries on their losses.

Is­rael is also not im­mune to earth­quakes, and since it’s lo­cated along the Syr­ian-African fault line (a line that runs along the bor­der be­tween Jor­dan and Is­rael), a ma­jor earth­quake is sta­tis­ti­cally due in the re­gion, with a se­ri­ous one ar­riv­ing ev­ery 80-100 years.

The last ma­jor earth­quake to hit Is­rael was in 1927, which claimed some 500 lives and reg­is­tered 6.2 on the Richter scale.

In light of Sun­day night’s shake-up, Tamir Levy, chief en­gi­neer for the As­so­ci­a­tion for Bet­ter Hous­ing, warns that most homes would not with­stand a pow­er­ful earth­quake.

“A large num­ber of the res­i­den­tial homes in Is­rael will be dam­aged by a large earth­quake re­gard­less of when they were built,” Levy said in a state­ment re­leased on Mon­day, adding: “It is not pos­si­ble to pre­vent earth­quakes, but it is pos­si­ble to pre­pare for them and thus re­duce the dam­age they cause. Since earth­quakes can­not be pre­dicted, we should be pre­pared at all times. Pre­pared­ness means, first and fore­most, to en­sure that the build­ings in which we live and work meet the strin­gent build­ing stan­dards re­quired to pro­tect against earth­quakes.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion stated that it works in co­op­er­a­tion with the Home Front Com­mand, pro­vid­ing civil­ians and fam­i­lies with work­shops and emer­gency plan­ning tech­niques to fur­ther pre­pare cit­i­zens for a pos­si­ble nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

Ev­ery sum­mer, se­cu­rity forces and emer­gency ser­vices con­duct a four-day drill to im­prove co­op­er­a­tion among these groups in the event of a ma­jor earth­quake.

Fol­low­ing the 2012 drill,

then-OC Home Front Com­mand Maj.-Gen. Eyal Eizen­berg said that “an earth­quake in Is­rael is more dan­ger­ous than war,” as it would re­sult in “dam­age to life and prop­erty on a much more sig­nif­i­cant scale.”

The gov­ern­ment has be­gun fund­ing earth­quake pre­pared­ness projects, and the Home Front Com­mand in re­cent years re­leased a soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tion for earth­quake pre­pared­ness, but ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Knes­set For­eign Af­fairs and De­fense Com­mit­tee’s Home Front Readi­ness Sub­com­mit­tee, if Is­rael were to be struck by a 7.5 mag­ni­tude quake, an es­ti­mated 7,000 peo­ple would be killed, an­other 8,600 in­jured and 377,000 left home­less. In ad­di­tion, the coun­try could face dam­age to the tune of up to NIS 200 bil­lion.

In ad­di­tion to build­ings be­ing de­stroyed, the dam­age to crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­tures such as elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and com­mu­ni­ca­tion is ex­pected to be great.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Emer­gency Author­ity, there are 80,000 build­ings, in­clud­ing schools and hos­pi­tals, over three sto­ries high that were built be­fore 1980, mean­ing they were not con­structed to meet cur­rent stan­dards. And only 2,700 of those build­ings have re­ceived ap­proval for the gov­ern­ment’s Tama 38 re­con­struc­tion pro­gram.

The goal of Tama 38 is to re­in­force build­ings built af­ter 1980, par­tic­u­larly those built along the Great Rift Val­ley, a lo­ca­tion highly vul­ner­a­ble to earth­quakes.

How­ever, in a state­ment re­leased by Ta­maFix, most of the work done for this project has been in ma­jor cities, thus leav­ing thou­sands of fam­i­lies in places like Arad, Tiberias and com­mu­ni­ties close to the Jor­dan River un­pro­tected in the event of a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

“The big one can hap­pen any­time, and it is not good that the lo­cal gov­ern­ments are not do­ing enough to en­cour­age peo­ple to re­in­force their struc­tures,” Eli­ran Si­mani, CEO of Ta­maFix Is­rael, told The Jerusalem Post on Mon­day.

As of Au­gust, only 13 build­ings lo­cated in the pe­riph­ery have been re­in­forced and brought up to code in the event of an earth­quake, as op­posed to the 4,385 in ma­jor cities like Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem since Tama 38 was es­tab­lished in 2005.

Ac­cord­ing Ta­maFix co-CEO Lior Gozes, “The amount re­quired to pre­vent the col­lapse of an apart­ment in the pe­riph­ery is NIS 84,000.”

He added that “this sum is based on cal­cu­lat­ing the cost of con­struct­ing a hous­ing unit that holds 12 fam­i­lies at a rate of NIS 1 mil­lion, which in­cludes con­struc­tion costs, taxes, ar­chi­tect and en­gi­neer costs, and more.”

Anna Ahronheim con­trib­uted to this re­port. •

(Ako Rasheed/Reuters)

A CHILD LOOKS at a dam­aged build­ing fol­low­ing an earth­quake in the town of Dar­bandikhan, in the Kur­dis­tan re­gion of Iraq, yes­ter­day.

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