Ministers approve earthquake plan

NIS 140 million approved to reinforce public buildings like schools and hospitals; a major quake is expected in Israel every hundred years.

April 8, 2010 02:30
2 minute read.
		A woman is rescued from wreckage in Haiti.

A woman is rescued from wreckage in Haiti.. (photo credit: AP)


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A comprehensive plan for governmental responsibility regarding earthquakes was approved by a ministerial committee on Wednesday.

The plan, two years in the making, outlines each ministry’s and government agency’s responsibility to prepare for a potential earthquake, to deal with one that occurs and to clean up in the aftermath. Ministries will have to submit master plans for how to deal with their responsibilities by July 31.

In addition, the ministerial committee headed by National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau approved a separate decision to budget NIS 140 million a year to reinforce public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, against earthquakes.

The Treasury has two weeks to determine where the funds will come from.

The decision updates and replaces a similar allocation of responsibility set out in a government decision from 2001.

According to the proposed decision no additional manpower or funds will be allocated aside from the NIS 140m. Instead, the decision directs every relevant ministry to fulfill its obligations within the constricts of its current budget and manpower allocation.

A major earthquake is expected in Israel every hundred years and a massive one every 400 years. Israel has not been shaken by a massive quake in 400 years.

As international studies have demonstrated, the damage an earthquake can inflict is proportional to the preparations a country takes to secure its buildings, roads and other installations. While earthquakes regularly rattle California, deaths have been drastically reduced because buildings are constructed to withstand such earthquakes. In contrast, the quake which struck Haiti caused so much damage because the country was not prepared for it and many buildings collapsed on top of residents.

While all new building in Israel since 1980 is supposed to have been constructed to be earthquake resistant, not all of it has been built according to code. Many older buildings have not been reinforced against earthquakes either.

In recent years, the government and Knesset have taken several steps to lay out clear plans as the situation on the ground is still very far from ideal. A parliamentary committee submitted its recommendations last year and the government has been working on this decision for two years.

The scenario that planners use is a major quake of 7.5 on the Richter scale (similar to that which struck Haiti in January) with its epicenter at Beit Shean in the Jordan Valley. The Syria-African rift, an area of seismic activity, runs right through the Jordan Valley. In such a quake, the scenario predicts 16,000 dead, 6,000 severely injured, 377,000 displaced, 10,000 buildings destroyed and 20,000 buildings heavily damaged.

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