Stormy weather takes economic toll
Local authorities say poor infrastructure has led to one billion shekels worth of damage.
Western Wall in the snow in Jerusalem. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
It may take weeks to assess the full extent of damage done by the rain, snow and
floods over the last few days, but even as the wintry weather continued across
the country on Thursday, signs pointed to significant economic disruptions from
the stormy conditions.
In Tel Aviv, flooding along the main highway and
train tracks on Tuesday prevented some 15% of employees in the business sector
from getting to work, according to the local chamber of commerce.
talking about 15% of a huge sector of 2.2 million employees,” said Federation of
the Israeli Chambers of Commerce president Uriel Lynn, adding that delays cost
those workers who did make it to work an hour-and-a-half of
Snow in Jerusalem on Wednesday and Thursday likewise
blocked off roads and shut down public transport, preventing people from getting
to their jobs. For parents who could get to work, school cancellations threw a
wrench into their plans.
As the Tel Aviv Municipality went to work
picking up fallen signs and trees, mending damaged roads and fixing traffic and
street lights, it said that repairing all the damage would cost millions of
Adding in further incidents of flooding, broken power lines and
falling objects, the municipality received a total of 1,680 damage reports
between Saturday and Thursday. A spokesperson for the Jerusalem Municipality
said they were too busy catering to the needs of their residents to gather
Though municipal workers were quick to point out that their
recent infrastructure upgrades were not designed to deal with the unusual
severity of the storm, Lynn blasted them for misplaced priorities.
failure belongs to the local authorities, which prefer to invest in gardens,
building, bicycle lanes and other projects that will earn them favor with local
residents. Engineering projects such as expanding roads and taking care of the
neglected drainage system, and that affects us all on these kinds of days,” said
Some local authorities said poor infrastructure had led to one
billion shekels worth of damage, an assessment that would call into question
decisions to defer infrastructure improvement projects costing between NIS 1.5-2
Uninsured victims of flooded homes also had much to worry about.
According to Haim Etkin, a land appraiser, damage to flooded buildings could
cost them as much as NIS 1,000 per square meter.
The heavy rains also hit
agriculture particularly hard.
According to David Ginsberg, who heads the
Insurance Fund for Natural Risk in Agriculture, over 700 farms were damaged
during the course of the fiveday tempest, half of them in the last day alone,
and more than any storm in over 20 years. The most extensive damage hit in the
The Agriculture Ministry said on Thursday it would
recommend that the storm be declared a “natural disaster,” which would allow it
to compensate farmers for damage to their equipment and infrastructure, a
process that would take several weeks.
Yossi Yishai, the minstry’s
director-general, said 2013 was the third year the ministry would have to
support farmers after natural disasters, but that crop insurance brought the
government’s cost down to NIS 130 million a year, from a high of nearly NIS 280
million in the past.
However, even though crops absorbed a majority of
the damage, the fact that 90% of farmers have their crops insured for natural
disasters means they will have an easier time dealing with the economic
aftermath of the storm, according to Ginsberg.
Consumers, however, may
not be so lucky; the shortage of crops will inevitably lead to a spike in the
price of produce.