Thousands of bomb shelters in North to be upgraded

The government is about to prepare detailed plans to upgrade 3,000 public bomb shelters and 3,000 shelters in low-income public housing in the North, to make them more livable for prolonged periods, a government official said Monday. David Ben-Yemini, head of the Northern Rehabilitation Authority, was speaking at a meeting of the special Knesset committee dealing with public complaints. He said the government had completed a survey of the shelters started after the Second Lebanon War ended in August. The meeting was devoted to complaints about the state of protection for civilian in the North. Eighty percent of the bomb shelters in multi-family housing units in the North are still unprepared for emergency use, according to a separate study released by the Organization for Housing Culture. The study also reported that 50% of shelters in the South - including those in the Gaza envelope area in range of Kassam rockets - are also unfit for emergency use. Ben-Yemini said the government had come up with a two-stage program to improve the shelters. The first stage covers the northern part of the country down to a line running through Acre and Karmiel. The second stage will cover the rest of the North from the coast to Beit She'an. The survey of the southern part of the area had not yet begun, Ben-Yemini said. The government had allocated NIS 58 million to the project, he said, while the Keren Yedidut philanthropic organization had pledged some NIS 40m. to improve the shelters in the public housing units. Ben-Yemini and Col. Yehiel Kuperstein, head of the Home Front Command's Reinforcement Department, stressed, however, that local authorities were responsible for keeping the shelters in good shape during times of peace, while the house committees were responsible in buildings with their own private shelters. "It is criminal and irresponsible for those in charge not to look after the shelters, a cause for embarrassment and shame," Kuperstein said. He said the reason that bomb shelters were in such poor shape at the beginning of the Second Lebanon War in was because the residents had misused them. Ben-Yemini added that no one could be certain whether the residents would maintain the shelters in good condition after the government had rehabilitated them. Meanwhile, committee chairwoman Sofa Landver (Israel Beiteinu) blasted the government for allegedly having accomplished so little since the war began nine and a half months ago. "I was expecting you to come and tell us how many new shelters you had built," she told the government representatives. "Every citizen should be able to know what you have done to make sure that what happened last year will not be repeated. Every citizen has the right to be reassured."