Experts Says Israel Vulnerable to Major Earthquake

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) attends a discussion about earthquakes. (Kobi Gideon /GPO/FLASH90)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) attends a discussion about earthquakes. (Kobi Gideon /GPO/FLASH90)

A series of minor earthquakes in northern Israel over the past few days has renewed anxiety about the possibility of a major disaster, especially in light of the country’s persistent state of unpreparedness, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

Professor Amotz Agnon, an expert in geology and geophysics associated with Hebrew University, told Army Radio that a major earthquake could “lead to thousands of deaths. From experience, we know that everything depends on the time of day an earthquake occurs. The cities of Tzefas, Tiveria, Kiryat Shemona, Beit She’an and Eilat, unfortunately, are all built above the Syrian-African fault-line.”

National Outline Plan 38, drawn up in 2005, ostensibly provides financial incentives for builders to invest in upgrading the earthquake-resistance of existing structures.

But the plan may be unrealistic. That’s the view of Moti Lavi, Tiveria’s chief engineer.

“National Outline Plan 38 is not financially possible to implement in reality — the allowance of an additional two-and-a-half stories to buildings does not make sense economically for an entrepreneur or contractor,” Lavi said on Army Radio on Monday.

He also noted that dangerous cracks in numerous buildings were found by analysts even before the recent tremors.

All this does not mean that the experts are proclaiming that the end is near, though. Seismologists are not yet able to predict earthquakes.

As Dr. Uri Frieslander, general manager of the Israel Geophysical Institute, observed, “We cannot say that this event (Sunday’s light earthquakes) will yield something [bigger] in the future. We are watching carefully the results of the seismological map.”