'Major Israeli earthquake could cause thousands of deaths'

Tiberias' leading engineer says National Outline Plan for fortifying buildings is not financially realistic.

Home Front Command earthquake drill (photo credit: Hadas Parush)
Home Front Command earthquake drill
(photo credit: Hadas Parush)
Four minor earthquakes in four days have raised concerns about the potential for costly damage and loss of life that may occur in the event that a major earthquake hits the region in the near future. According to some experts, these fears may be valid.
Professor Amotz Agnon, a Geology and Geophysics expert working at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, believes a major earthquake in the near future could kill thousands.
Speaking in an interview with Army Radio, Agnon said that a strong earthquake in Israel could "lead to thousands of deaths. From experience, we know that everything depends on the time of day an earthquake occurs. The cities of Safed, Tiberias, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She'an and Eilat, unfortunately, are all built above the Syrian-African fault-line."
Adding to the problem is the fact that these towns and cities do not seem to have the financial means necessary to address concerning building issues.
National Outline Plan 38 is a plan created to fortify buildings that are not structurally prepared to handle the effects of a powerful earthquake. The plan, which was put together by analysts and planners in 2005, calls for the directing of financial support toward populated areas likely to be affected by an earthquake. Essentially any building contractor who works to bring a building up to code will receive financial benefits provided by the state.
However, Moti Lavi, Tiberias' lead engineer, believes that the finer workings of plan 38 are not realistic in terms of implementation.
"National Outline Plan 38 is not financially possible to implement in reality - the allowance of an additional two and a half stories to buildings does not make sense economically for an entrepreneur or contractor," Lavi said in his own interview with Army Radio on Monday.
He added that many dangerous cracks in various buildings were noted by analysts even before the recent rash of tremors.
One bright light is that Dr. Uri Frieslander, general manager of the Israel Geophysical Institute, does not believe that the long-predicted major earthquake is threatening to strike in the near future.
“We cannot say that this event (Sunday's light earthquakes) will yield something (bigger) in the future. We are watching carefully the results of the seismological map,” he said.