Israel is not properly prepared to deal with a major earthquake, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan warned Thursday, and called on the state to allocate funding for earthquake and natural disaster protection.
“The state has not yet provided an optimal solution” in terms of earthquake protection and readiness, Erdan told Ynet News. He added that such precautions are “as important as airbags in an automobile.”
The Home Front Command ran a country-wide earthquake and natural-disaster preparedness drill last October, named Turning Point 6, aimed at raising the readiness of citizens, local authorities, and emergency services.
The drill revealed significant shortcomings in the country’s ability to respond to natural and man-made disasters, and, according to the Ynet News article, “at least half” of the subsequent recommendations that came out of the exercise have not been implemented.
According to a special ministerial committee convened to address the issue, a major, 7.0 Richter scale earthquake in Israel could leave some 7,000 people dead, 8,600 wounded, almost 10,000 trapped in rubble and around 170,000 people homeless. A large quake could totally destroy 28,000 buildings and leave 290,000 buildings with light to moderate damage.
A string of minor earthquakes has shaken Israel over the past few weeks. Wednesday saw two minor quakes in the Eilat area, which followed five tremors over a six-day period in the north, the last of which was on Tuesday. The quakes have not caused injuries or damage, but numerous buildings in Tiberias have sustained cracks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a ministerial meeting Monday on the issue, as did Home Front Command and emergency services representatives on Sunday. On Tuesday the IDF re-issued its earthquake readiness guide, which noted that “there is no question that an earthquake will hit Israel.”
Israel was last shaken by a major earthquake during the British Mandate period, in 1927, when a 6.2-magnitude quake killed 500 people and injured another 700. Major earthquakes strike the region once every 80 years or so, meaning the country may be due for a serious natural disaster.