One man was killed and five were injured when a building in south Tel Aviv
crashed to the ground on Wednesday morning, burying the six construction workers
in the rubble.
Police, paramedics and firefighters rushed to the scene on
Herzl Street, at the corner of Wolfson, and were joined within the hour by IDF
Home Front Command search and rescue troops. The rescue personnel looked for
survivors in the building, which had collapsed except for the front exterior
The building was a preserved building undergoing “Tama 38”
renovations, which are performed in order to make buildings earthquake safe. “It
was like an atomic bomb, you can’t imagine the noise,” witness Nurit Greenberg
Greenberg had just parked her car outside her upholstery store when
the interior of the building across the street came down, masking the street in
a cloud of white dust. Within moments, she said, she saw a man in his 20s
covered from head to toe in blood and deep lacerations, crawling as three
bystanders rushed to help him, pouring water across his wounds. From inside the
rubble, she said she heard panicked men screaming “Allahu akbar [God is great]”
over and over again.
The dead man was later identified as the building’s
contractor, Assad Mahajneh, 55, from Umm el-Fahm.
Police had just
finished interviewing Greenberg, and she said one officer had been holding a
cellphone recovered from one of the victims. Greenberg said it continued to ring
the entire time she was speaking to police, and that the officer told her it was
the man’s wife, trying desperately to reach him.
Greenberg said she knew
Mahajneh well and that he was a charming, sharp-dressed, middle-aged Israeli man
who drove a late model BMW SUV and would say good morning to her every day when
he came to work.
On Sunday, the work crew was using a bulldozer to dig
around supporting beams and they may have caused structural damage, Greenberg
Another witness next door said he saw the contractor pull up and
park his SUV outside the building, and waved at him.
Moments later the
building collapsed and the man was buried in the rubble.
“It was like he
came here to die,” the witness said.
By late morning, Magen David Adom
had listed one fatality, one man moderately injured, and four lightly
They were evacuated to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv and Wolfson
Medical Center in Holon.
Yiftach subdistrict head Supt. David Gez
said police and rescue personnel shut off the electricity and gas in the
building and began evacuating the victims along with Magen David Adom
Gez said that the contractor had all the legal permits
necessary for the project, and that once the rescue operation is finished they
will carry out an investigation to determine what led to the collapse of the
Police have ruled out a gas explosion.
a former Tel Aviv Municipal engineer, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that
there are hundreds of buildings in danger of collapse across Tel Aviv, in
particular ones that were built shortly before World War II.
Second World War the buildings were built very quickly, with very cheap
products, without supervision and often without permits, and they are in great
danger of collapsing while people are renovating them. You don’t need to be an
expert to know this,” Godovitz said.
He said the city’s policy of not
demolishing, but rather rebuilding or doing structural renovations on older
buildings marked for preservation, is a recipe for disaster.
from 2.0 on the Richter Scale or higher will turn every preserved building or
renovated preserved building in Tel Aviv into a giant sand dune,” Godovitz
Not enough work has been done on the issue and “people only talk
about it when there’s a death, so until the next Herzl Street or Versailles
wedding hall, we won’t talk about it,” he said.
In May 2001, the third
floor of the four-story Versailles wedding hall collapsed in the capital’s
Talpiot neighborhood, in the worst civil disaster in the state’s
Twenty-three people died and 380 were injured.
March, a three-story building, a couple of blocks from the site of Wednesday’s
incident, partially collapsed, with half of the building sheared off and lying
in a pile of rubble below. No one was hurt in that collapse.
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