‘3,000 Tiberias fam­i­lies un­pro­tected from quakes’

At emer­gency meet­ing, pic­ture looks grim

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By TA­MARA ZIEVE (Marc Is­rael Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Some 3,000 fam­i­lies liv­ing in the north­ern city of Tiberias are lack­ing the proper in­fra­struc­ture to pro­tect them in the face of a se­ri­ous earth­quake, the city’s mayor, Yossi Ben-David, told par­tic­i­pants of an emer­gency meet­ing hosted by the For­eign Af­fairs and De­fense Com­mit­tee’s HomeFront Readi­ness Sub­com­mit­tee on Thurs­day.

The meet­ing was called af­ter dozens of tremors were felt around north­ern Is­rael over the past two weeks. The city of Tiberias an­nounced on Sun­day it had opened an emer­gency hot­line for res­i­dents.

“The na­tional con­cept re­gard­ing earthquakes de­ter­mines that the lo­cal author­ity is the foun­da­tion brick and we have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­spond in the first mo­ments,” he said. “We do every­thing to be pre­pared, but we need the tools.”

Over half of the build­ing in the city, he said, were built be­fore 1984 when stan­dards be­gan to be en­forced for earth­quake dura­bil­ity, and are there­fore in dan­ger of col­laps­ing dur­ing a quake.

“There is cu­mu­la­tive dam­age caused by a se­ries of tremors like this one, and it is prefer­able to in­vest NIS 1 bil­lion now in strength­en­ing build­ings in the city and strength­en­ing the pop­u­la­tion – for in­stance by im­prov­ing med­i­cal ser­vices – rather than in re­pairs af­ter the in­ci­dent,” Ben-David said.

“There are 3,000 fam­i­lies that still have no so­lu­tions – and I’m not even talk about ho­tels and tourists – and I do not want to scare them away out of stress, but I also have to bring them so­lu­tions. To­day the govern­ment so­lu­tions speak of build­ings of three to six floors, which are in­deed the most com­mon, but there are many one-story build­ings, such as kinder­gartens, which no­body is deal­ing with,” he added.

Is­rael is sit­u­ated along the Syr­ian-African fault line, which runs along the bor­der be­tween Is­rael and Jor­dan, part of the Great Rift Val­ley en­com­pass­ing the area from north­ern Syria to Mozambique. Tiberias is one of the Is­raeli cities that are most at risk, as is Kiryat Sh­mona.

Rabbi Nis­sim Malka, mayor of Kiryat Sh­mona, said that last Satur­day there were three tremors and he wit­nessed con­fu­sion among the res­i­dents. “They didn’t know whether to go to the shel­ter – as they are used to, stay at home or be out­side,” he said, stress­ing the im­por­tance of dis­sem­i­nat­ing pub­lic in­for­ma­tion on the mat­ter. This point was backed by Ben-David who noted that his res­i­dents know how to re­spond to missiles but not to earthquakes.

Com­mit­tee chair­man MK Amir Peretz (Zion­ist Union) said: “In this field there is a clear ad­van­tage that any in­vest­ment in emer­gency pre­pared­ness will, in fact, help in re­spond­ing to earthquakes. An earth­quake is a de­cree of fate, while se­cu­rity in­ci­dents can be pre­vented in one way or an­other. If we can not pre­vent it, we can only pre­pare and be pre­pared, and first and fore­most we must try to min­i­mize the im­me­di­ate dam­age as soon as pos­si­ble, and then ex­am­ine the ways to deal with dam­ages do oc­cur.

“We pre­fer to pre­pare for the most pes­simistic sce­nar­ios in or­der to be pre­pared for every­thing and we have writ­ten many re­ports – and made many govern­ment decisions about it – but not every­thing is com­ing to fruition. But cer­tainly, the state can not blamed them for such an event. We have heard an­nounce­ments about the good in­ten­tions of the fi­nance and de­fense min­istries, and I hope they will be backed by a bud­get and real work plans.”

Di­rec­tor-gen­eral of Ma­gen David Adom, Is­rael’s na­tional emer­gency, med­i­cal and dis­as­ter ser­vices, said that un­for­tu­nately his or­ga­ni­za­tion is also not pre­pared, also due to a lack of back­ing.

“In 2012, the di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Health Min­istry asked us to op­er­ate in an earth­quake, af­ter it had been the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the health main­te­nance or­ga­ni­za­tions. Since then, every­thing we have done was solely from our own re­sources be­cause we did not get any funds from the state. Is there any body in Is­rael or in the world that is in­structed to deal with such chal­lenges with­out get­ting one shekel? Un­for­tu­nately, Ma­gen David Adom is not ready to­day for a sce­nario of earthquakes.”

A 2016 re­port by Is­rael’s For­eign Af­fairs and De­fense Com­mit­tee’s Home-Front Readi­ness Sub­com­mit­tee found that if Is­rael were to be struck by a 7.5 mag­ni­tude earth­quake, an es­ti­mated 7,000 peo­ple would be killed, an­other 8,600 in­jured and 377,000 ex­pected to be left home­less. In ad­di­tion, the coun­try could face dam­ages of up to NIS 200 bil­lion.

Peretz con­cluded the meet­ing by crit­i­ciz­ing the dis­pro­por­tion­ately lit­tle at­ten­tion al­lo­cated to the threat as an “on­go­ing fail­ure.”

“We ex­pect the up­com­ing cabi­net meet­ing to clar­ify the mat­ter and make a de­ci­sion on timeta­bles of up to two or three years, not a decade, with bud­gets to back it up,” he said. FOR­EIGN AF­FAIRS and De­fense Com­mit­tee’s Home-Front Readi­ness Sub­com­mit­tee chair­man Amir Peretz (cen­ter) hosts a Knes­set meet­ing on Thurs­day about the coun­try’s readi­ness for earthquakes.

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