Health Ministry warns of possible quake

But ministry's director-general Prof. Avi Yisraeli tells Post "the public must continue life as usual."

china quake 224.88 good (photo credit: AP)
china quake 224.88 good
(photo credit: AP)
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Avi Yisraeli issued a letter to all hospitals, health funds and Magen David Adom - with copies to the press - on Monday, asking them to ensure that they are prepared for the possibility of an earthquake in the north. However, when contacted by The Jerusalem Post, Yisraeli said there was absolutely no evidence of an imminent earthquake in the north despite reports of some unusual seismic activity of some 500 mini-quakes ranging from 2 to 5 on the Richter Scale in southern Lebanon during the past four months; most of which were not felt anywhere. "There is no need for panic, or for the public to take any action," Yisraeli said. "The public must continue life as usual; there is no need for them to store water or canned foods. We have no idea if the mini-earthquakes in Lebanon are relevant to Israel, but we wanted to remind medical services in the north to prepare for any eventuality, and they should be doing this constantly in any case," he added. "It is not sure if there will be one, when or where. Nothing is clear," Yisraeli continued. "We just wanted the health services to go over their preparedness plans." The press release from the ministry's spokeswoman was misunderstood and caused some panic, with some Web sites claiming Yisraeli had warned of an "imminent earthquake" in the north. The head of the ministry's emergency branch, Danny Laor, confirmed that there was "no sudden danger. The whole country is overdue for an earthquake. It could come any time. You never know. It cannot be predicted. But it is good for the medical services to be prepared at all times." Geologists who are expert in earthquake research said that "indeed, we cannot predict them. We do not understand the recent unusual seismic activity in southern Lebanon, and most probably a strong earthquake will not occur in this context. On the other hand, a strong one can happen anywhere, at any moment." In reaction to the ministry reminder, three northern medical centers - Rambam in Haifa, Emek Medical Center in Afula and Ziv in Safed - all issued detailed press releases saying that they conduct earthquake drills and remind staff of what to do on a regular basis. In 1956, said Ziv deputy director-general Dr. Kalin Shapira, there was an earthquake in southern Lebanon that caused the deaths of 160 people and much destruction, but at this stage, tremors felt in the northern part of the country have been minuscule. We hope we will not have to use the guidelines in a real emergency." However, he did urge that funds be allocated for "strengthening infrastructures" in the hospitals according to plans prepared by experts.