Report: Hundreds of Thousands of School Children at Risk in Earthquake

Israeli children riding to school. (Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM - Nearly 700,000 children in Israel go to schools that are likely to be badly damaged in the event of an earthquake, according to an Israeli firm that specializes in strengthening buildings to protect them from earthquake damage. Most of the buildings were constructed before 1980, when regulations requiring buildings to be earthquake-resistant were implemented.

As such, most of the more dangerous structures are in older towns. Ramat Gan was the most “dangerous” from an earthquake perspective, with 86 percent of students attending schools that were not earthquake-ready. Bat Yam was second on the “danger list,” with 76 percent of students studying at sub-standard institutions, as did 74 percent of students in Tel Aviv, 69 percent in Haifa and 61 percent in Herzliya. The safest place from an earthquake perspective is Modiin, where all the buildings were constructed after 1980, and as such are all earthquake-resistant. Other new cities, such as Beitar Illit, had close to 100 percent earthquake safety. Beit Shemesh is an older town, but has grown so much since 1980 that only 3 percent of students are attending classes at older, unprotected schools.

Of the schools affected, the majority – 950 – were elementary schools, with 57 percent of all elementary school students attending classes in sub-standard structures. Of junior high and high school buildings, 214 are not up to standard, with 29 percent of junior high and 14 percent of high school students in danger.

While new school buildings must be constructed with earthquake proofing, said the company, there is no program to strengthen existing buildings to be earthquake resistant as there is for residential buildings (the Tama 38 program), the company said. It is up to each local authority to enact their own programs, it said.