After deadly winter, NIS 146 million to go to flood prevention
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After deadly winter, NIS 146 million to go to flood prevention

Funding comes after flooding claimed seven lives, and amid predictions by scientists that climate change will bring less rain but more extreme downpours

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

A military truck evacuates Israeli citizens through a flooded road in the northern city of Nahariya on a stormy winter day, January 8, 2020. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
A military truck evacuates Israeli citizens through a flooded road in the northern city of Nahariya on a stormy winter day, January 8, 2020. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Following last winter’s fatal floods, which claimed seven lives, and with scientists predicting more extreme rainfall events as a result of climate change, the Agriculture Ministry announced Monday that it would be investing NIS 146 ($43) million to upgrade drainage facilities across the country.

Of that sum, NIS 96 ($28) million will be made available during the current year for infrastructure work.

Cities in line to receive some of the cash include Nahariya, Haifa, the Krayot and Nof HaGalil (formerly upper Nazareth) in the north; Yavne in central Israel; Eilat and Ofakim in the south; and the capital, Jerusalem.

The ministry said in a press release that last winter’s events helped to persuade the Finance Ministry that money was needed for flood prevention.

A car on a flooded road in the northern city of Nahariya on January 8, 2020. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Among the victims were Moti Ben Shabbat, 38, of Nahariya, who was carried away by floodwaters as he tried to rescue the passengers of a car that overturned during a torrential downpour.

In southern Tel Aviv, Dean Yaakov Shoshani and Stav Harari, both 25, were drowned in the basement-level elevator of a residential building.

Dean Yaakov Shoshani, left, and Stav Harari, right, drowned in a Tel Aviv elevator on January 4, 2020. (Facebook/Instagram)

Seven projects will be fully funded and a further 61 will be subsidized to the tune of 60 to 90 percent, with poorer towns and cities in the periphery getting priority.

Anti-flood measures include creating reservoirs to absorb water from rivers that have burst their banks and runoff from roads and other surfaces where the rain cannot be absorbed into the soil.

Initiatives in the pipeline include building reservoirs around Nahariyya to take excess water from the Ga’aton River, which flows through the city center en route to the Mediterranean Sea; enlarging a catchment reservoir in Haifa to absorb more floodwaters from the Kishon River and hence better protect the Haifa Bay area; and construction of water channels on the outskirts of Eilat to protect the city from flooding of the Arava River and from Jordan.

A car that was swept away in floods at the Dalia Stream in northern Israel on January 5, 2020, and found January 6 next to the driver’s body. (Israel Police)

The ministry called on the drainage authorities to make “extraordinary” efforts” to use the budgets to implement anti-flood measures as quickly as possible.

Downpours in northern Israel broke a 51-year record within a two-week period during last winter, with more than 400 millimeters (15.7 inches) of rain pounding the western and Upper Galilee and taking the lives of Ali Agbaria, 47, Omri Abu-Janb, 15, and Majd Qassem Su’ad, 27, in addition to that of Ben Shabbat.

In the town of Binyamina, Eran Herrnstadt, 71, was found dead after his car was caught in a flood.

Scientists warn that climate change will lead to less rain in Israel but to more extreme downpour events causing flooding.

The Agriculture Ministry is responsible for implementing the law on drainage and flood prevention via the Water Authority.

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