Tsunami warning sign on a Tel Aviv beach..
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Dozens of tsunami warning signs were being placed on beaches throughout Tel Aviv-Jaffa on Thursday, with others planned for Haifa and the remainder of the country’s shores to coincide with Sunday’s World Tsunami Awareness Day.
The initiative was spearheaded by the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee for Earthquake Preparedness in coordination with the National Emergency Authority, Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and Israel Police.
To ensure public safety in the event of a tsunami, the committee mapped potential flood areas at beaches throughout the country, as well as escape routes.
“This initiative will soon become an integral part of the coast of the State of Israel, which will join other countries in the world, such as the US, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Chile and others, who have prepared escape routes for tsunamis,” the committee said in a statement.
Still, tsunamis on Israeli shores are rare.
Indeed, the last one recorded in 1956 was the result of a large earthquake in Greek waters. Prior to that, the only tsunamis recorded were near Acre in the 19th century and Caesarea in the 12th century.
Nonetheless, Dr. Beverly Goodman, who studies the phenomenon at the Dr. Moses Strauss Department of Marine Geosciences in the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, warned that “There will be a tsunami on our shore – the question is when.”
While earthquakes stronger than 7.5-magnitude have the potential to cause tsunamis, they can also be caused by underwater landslides, Goodman said.
Although researchers have developed a warning matrix for eastern Mediterranean tsunamis, it will only provide 20 to 30 minutes of advanced warning to flee before the storm lands.
And while tsunamis near Israel will not have the power of those that devastated Japan and Thailand in recent years, she said it will affect land about a half-kilometer from the coast.
Ideally, the researcher said the government should opt for land-based, rather than marine-based, infrastructure when it has the choice.
Yet, Goodman noted that “The best solution is prevention.”
Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.