The Jerusalem Post
State suffers from deficiencies in handling floods, comptroller finds
‘11 separate bodies handle deluges, creating added bureaucracy’
Israel suffers from deficiencies in the state’s confrontation of flooding problems, according to State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman’s report on Wednesday.
According to the report, seven people drowned in floods countrywide during the 2019-2020 winter season.
There are 11 different authorities involved in flooding issues, which creates bureaucratic problems. Broadly speaking, the comptroller warns of the Agriculture Ministry and the local municipalities trying to pass off responsibility to each other.
In addition, the report said that the severity of flooding has increased due to the reduced amounts of open spaces where water can spread out in contrast to the greater amounts of areas closed urban spaces where water builds up causing flooding.
The report especially warns that the flooding of the Israel Air Force’s Hatzor base in January 2020 is likely to be repeated if the flooding threat by nearby rivers is not addressed.
Englman estimated that the budget needed to prevent future floods of the IAF base at between NIS 160 million-200m., but noted that nearly 18 months after the Hatzor base flooding disaster, no budget has been allocated to prevent repeat flooding.
The base also had been flooded in 1991, 2013 and 2014, but the 2020 flood was by far the worst, with eight F-16 Sufa fighter jets suffering rain damage: five of them with minor damage and three with significant damage.
Rather than preventing future floods, a belated IDF admission of its errors in handling the flood situation in January 2020 focused on the need to have evacuated the F-16s to a different location before the flood.
Initial IDF flooding damage estimates were in the tens of millions of shekels and the comptroller gave the number NIS 42 million, though other reports said the amounts might be smaller.
The IDF said that it has a plan ready for resolving the issue of flooding from nearby rivers and has worked cooperatively with the Environmental Ministry and the Defense Ministry on the issue, but essentially placed the blame at their feet.
A statement by the IDF said that those ministries had not approved any plan for handling the flooding issue and that, in the meantime, all the military could do would be to try to mitigate the chances and extent of potential damage from future incidents.
The Environmental Ministry responded that the IDF response was blatantly wrong because they do not even have a division which deals with or has any expertise in addressing flooding.
Rather, they said this issue is the responsibility of the Agriculture Ministry, though the Environmental Ministry spokesman did not want to speculate if the IDF had made a typographical error in its response or was just generically seeking to deflect blame.
The Agriculture Ministry responded to the comptroller’s report saying that it has been warning of floods as an increasing threat for years, but has generally been ignored and not been given the additional budget or backing to handle the issue.
The ministry expressed hope that the comptroller report would make sufficient waves to finally get the government to take the flooding threat seriously.