Haifa drafts plans for national emergency

Municipality aims to use Carmel Tunnels as public bomb shelters, manage city from massive command center

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

One of the Carmel Tunnels in Haifa, prior to its opening in 2010. (photo credit: Shay Levy/Flash90)
One of the Carmel Tunnels in Haifa, prior to its opening in 2010. (photo credit: Shay Levy/Flash90)

The northern city of Haifa has drafted citywide emergency wartime procedures, including the use of its highway tunnels as mass bomb shelters.

In the case of an attack, the municipality would be managed from its recently constructed 600 square meters (6,458 sq. feet), NIS 3 million command center. All municipal authorities responsible for emergency response and disaster management would be situated in the city’s nerve center, Army Radio reported on Monday.

The Carmel Tunnels, completed two years ago, run a total of 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) through Mount Carmel, directly beneath the city of Haifa. Their central location and situation beneath the mountain make them an ideal shelter against rocket and missile attacks on Israel’s northern port city. Haifa sustained multiple rocket attacks by Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has worked to turn blueprints for using the subterranean roadways as shelters that have existed since before their construction into a practical solution. He reportedly requested the Home Front Command and National Emergency Authority approve their conversion into emergency refuge, and to allot space outside their portals for mass parking lots for incoming residents.

Yahav also asked the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and Transportation Ministry to declare the tunnels an essential wartime industry, in order to prevent under-staffing that would likely cause their closure.

The tunnels are critical transit arteries that cut travel time across the city from 30-50 minutes to six minutes during peak hours.

More radically, the mayor’s plan aims to prevent certain businesses — particularly pharmacies — from closing and preventing the public from accessing essential commodities during a national emergency. City Hall reportedly mapped out the city’s businesses and intends to instruct its owners to remain open. The municipality was investigating the possibility of commandeering stores whose owners who refuse, but it was unclear whether the move was legally feasible.


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