Tel Aviv’s main highway reopened on Sunday morning, but Israelis were told to brace for massive delays on the roads, as authorities sealed a 15-meter sinkhole that opened up hours earlier and continued to assess the damage caused by it.
Southbound lanes of the Ayalon Highway were closed from Ramat Hasharon to HaShalom Interchange for roughly an hour overnight as construction workers and engineers operated at the site, confirming that no additional sinkholes would open up.
The HaShalom Interchange exit, nearest to where the sinkhole opened up, will remain closed until Tuesday morning, police said.
Israel Railways said its train services from Tel Aviv had resumed regular operations on Sunday morning after it received a go-ahead from company experts.
While it didn’t cite any source, the Ynet news site said that the prevailing assessment is that the sinkhole was caused by alleged haphazard construction work on the nearby Azrieli Spiral Tower, which is slated to become Tel Aviv’s second-tallest building.
“I have no doubt that this was a man-made technical failure,” Tel Aviv University Geology professor Shmuel Marko was quoted as saying after observing the sinkhole.
The Azrieli Group issued a statement late Saturday night saying it was looking into the matter.
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli warned against coming to Tel Aviv by car on Sunday.
“I am again calling on everyone who can work from home tomorrow — do it. If you must get to the center [of the country], do it by public transportation. Do not come to Tel Aviv by car,” Michaeli said in a statement, adding that public transportation would be bolstered.
The Israel Defense Forces said it would minimize the number of troops arriving at bases in central Israel on Sunday, including the military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, close to the site of the sinkhole.
In addition, the IDF said commanders had been instructed to be more flexible with the arrival times of soldiers across the whole country, anticipating major traffic jams.
Sinkholes are relatively rare in the center of the country. However, a man was killed in July when a sinkhole opened underneath a swimming pool during a party at a home in the central town of Karmei Yosef.
Sinkholes have also opened in the Dead Sea region as the water recedes as a result of human activity, as well as climate change.