Israel Navy leading large-scale earthquake recovery drill

Dubbed “Mighty Waves”, the drill began on Sunday and is scheduled to wrap up on Thursday.

August 12, 2019 17:15
2 minute read.
Israeli Navy boat

Israeli Navy boat . (photo credit: FLICKR)

The Navy’s five-day large-scale multinational exercise with 10 foreign fleets off the Haifa coast simulating the aftermath of a major earthquake is wrapping up on Thursday.

Dubbed “Mighty Waves”, the drill focuses on the after-effects of a significant earthquake which left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. It focus on the recovery of casualties, including casualties underwater, and the transfer of humanitarian aid.

The Home Front Command holds nation-wide drills every summer simulating nation-wide disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

Israel is situated along the Syrian-African fault line which runs along the border between Israel and Jordan, part of the Great Rift Valley, encompassing the area from northern Syria to Mozambique.

While the region experiences frequent small earthquakes, the last major seismic event to strike Israel was in 1927. Centered in the Dead Sea and measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, it killed an estimated 500 people and injured an additional 700. In 1837, a magnitude 6.5 on the Richter scale struck in the Upper Galilee, killing an estimated 6,000-7000 people.

A 2016 report by Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Home-Front Readiness Subcommittee found that if Israel were to be struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, an estimated 7,000 people would be killed, another 8,600 injured and 377,000 expected to be left homeless. In addition, the country could face damages of up to NIS 200 billion.

In addition to buildings being destroyed, the damage to critical infrastructures such as electricity, water and communication is expected to be great. According to the National Emergency Authority, 80,000 buildings including schools and hospitals over three stories high that were built before 1980 and were not constructed to current standards are in danger.

The government is funding some earthquake preparedness projects and the Home Front Command (HFC) recently released an application for earthquake preparedness. As well, the HFC has trained more than 74,000 students as first responders in case of an earthquake to provide aid until professional rescue service teams arrive.

A major earthquake could threaten Israel’s 271-km. coastline with a devastating tsunami. On average, a significant tsunami hits the Mediterranean Sea once a century, and Israel’s coastline suffers one on average every 250 years.

The last recorded tsunami here, in 1956, followed a large earthquake in Greek waters. Other tsunamis were recorded were near Acre in the 19th century and Caesarea in the 12th century.

Nevertheless, the government began posting tsunami warning signs and evacuation routes along coastal areas in November 2017.

Israel is part of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas (ICG/NEAMTWS), and is provided with essential data on seismic activity in the region. As part of the system, the country will have more than 20 minutes to evacuate its population the moment an earthquake happens in Crete or Greece.

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