4.0 quake felt; no damage, injuries

Tremor's epicenter was north of the Dead Sea; seismologist calls quake "typical movement."

dead sea dry 2 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
dead sea dry 2 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, Israel experienced its fourth earthquake in two weeks, measuring 4.0 on the Richter Scale. There were no casualties or damage. In light of the recent quakes, some Israelis are beginning to take notice, leading Magen David Adom to open up a training program aimed specifically at earthquake awareness. The two-hour course is available at MDA stations across the country for NIS 50. It aims to prepare people for the "before, during and after" of an earthquake. "We begin the course with the history of earthquakes in the region and then move on to how to be ready for them," said Natan Kubinsky, MDA's director of training. "This course is very important, because if the community knows how to act, it can save lives." The course includes practical, comprehensive information on where to stand during an earthquake, depending on where you are - in your house, car or elsewhere. According to Kubinsky, if an individual is in a car, he or she should pull over but avoid bridges, tall trees and electrical wires. In a building, the individual should stand under a door frame. In addition, the course teaches how to react to scenarios that could occur during a quake, such as when water boilers topple, electrical wires fall and cause fires, or shingles start falling off roofs. According to MDA, the protective safe rooms in Israeli buildings are a prime location for people to go in case of a large earthquake - a situation that most other countries do not have. On top of the new course, Kubinsky said, MDA strongly advises everyone to get hold of first aid kits that can be purchased for NIS 50. These include equipment such as gloves, bandages and gas masks. Before the new course was introduced, MDA included 20 minutes of earthquake-focused training in all regular training courses. However, Kubinsky said, the recent quakes have created a demand for more education. "If people don't feel it, if they are not affected by something, they won't be interested in learning about it," he said. "Now, and [also after] the large quake [on February 11, 2004, which measured 5.2 on the Richter Scale], people want to know what to do." However, despite this new desire to know what to do in the face of an earthquake, self-employed insurance broker Jonathan Marcus said he has not seen an upsurge in people's interest in earthquake insurance. Marcus, who has been selling insurance in Israel for 15 years, said there have been changes, but nothing initiated by individuals. "When I first started, earthquake insurance was offered if the broker included it in a plan or would ask someone, 'Do you want earthquake insurance?'" he said. "But then eight or nine years ago, the state realized that people wouldn't ask for it on their own, and they pushed for insurance companies to include it automatically. This way, people have to specifically ask to be taken off of it if they don't want it, and the chances of that happening are very remote." Marcus deals with all of the large companies in the country, including Phoenix, Harel, Clal and Ayalon. He said there have not been any large claims made on earthquake insurance, since there have not been any substantial quakes in the region since 1946; however, there has been the occasional claim for cracks in buildings or for objects that have fallen off shelves. Marcus said he did not see anything changing unless a big quake occurred in the region and affected a large number of people. "If there's a major earthquake here, or in Jordan or Lebanon, that will bring interest on the issue," Marcus said. "Right now, it's really up to the government to get their act together and encourage people to take out earthquake insurance. They need to do this through public relations and advertising." "I think it's important to have this insurance," he added, "because there is definitely a chance there will be a major quake within a short amount of time. I definitely wouldn't advise anyone not to take out the insurance." Israeli experts, meanwhile, say earthquake awareness needs to increase in Israel. "People should be aware and act accordingly," Dr. Rami Hofstetter, director of seismology at the Geophysical Institute of Israel, told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. "People need to be more aware so it won't be a surprise." The country experiences earthquakes every day, but they are usually too small to notice, he said. Sunday's quake originated in the Dead Sea Basin, as almost all do in the country, and was strong enough to be felt in neighborhoods 100 kilometers to 200 km. from the source. The Dead Sea Fault begins at the Gulf of Eilat and goes north to the Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee. On the Richter Scale, 4.0 is classed as an intermediate to small earthquake. Hofstetter said this seismic activity was considered normal and was expected to continue, because the situation in the region has remained static for the last 2,000 years. "In the past 2,000 years there have been strong, destructive earthquakes, and we do expect one in the future," he said. "We just have no idea whether it will be in a few minutes, days or years." Dr. Rivka Amit, who works in the department of engineering geology and geological hazards at the Geological Survey of Israel, agreed that the recent quakes in the country have been part of normal seismic activity. "This has been usual activity and it will lead to something big, but we are not sure when," she said. "There are no indications that what we have experienced has been foreshock... where the activity gets bigger and bigger, meaning it is leading up to something. Right now, it doesn't look like there is anything unusual occurring."