Israel’s only flood-prediction center said in danger of shutting down
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Israel’s only flood-prediction center said in danger of shutting down

Months after disaster that claimed lives of 10 teens, Water Authority center — relied upon by police and rescue units — could close in a month due to dispute between officials

Military helicopters search for missing teens swept away in the flooding of the Tzafit River, a riverbed near the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on April 26, 2018. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)
Military helicopters search for missing teens swept away in the flooding of the Tzafit River, a riverbed near the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on April 26, 2018. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

Israel’s only center specializing in detailed predictions of floods in the country is reportedly in danger of closing down, just five years after it was established and six months after ten teenagers were killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea.

The center was established by the Water Authority in 2013 in the aftermath of several floods that year, and is made up of professionals who analyze data and produce detailed predictions for Israel’s various streams and rivers.

The center is the only body in Israel that gives such a service, and its alerts have been used by police, rescue units and the Education Ministry to determine when and where to close off areas to the public and when to cancel or relocate school trips.

But now that center is likely to be shut down in a month, Hadashot TV reported on Monday, due to a dispute between officials that prevented the establishment of a center producing predictions 24 hours a day.

The report didn’t provide details of the disagreement, but said a forum of rescue units has argued that the potential closure of the center will endanger lives.

The Water Authority responded by saying simply that “a detailed plan has been prepared and the process is ongoing.”

Israelis watch flooded water running through a valley blocking the main road along the Dead Sea in the Judean desert, near the desert fortress of Masada north of Ein Bokek, following heavy rainfall in the mountains on April 25, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

This year has seen a number of instances of severe flooding, one of which turned deadly.

In April, 10 high school seniors were killed in a flash flood during a hike along the Tzafit riverbed, near the Dead Sea. According to reports, the principal of the Bnei Zion Military Academy did not heed the advice of meteorologists or an Air Force weather forecaster who warned against taking a trip to a flash-flood prone area.

In the summer, a rare June downpour saw power outages and severe flooding throughout the country.

The airport in the southern city of Eilat was shut in October and other routes were closed off amid heavy rains that flooded the runway.

Israeli authorities shut some parts of a major road near the Dead Sea for several hours on Saturday over fears of flash floods from nearby streams.

Flash flood alerts have periodically been issued for the Dead Sea area over the past month, specifically in riverbeds and other low-lying areas.

In neighboring Jordan, 32 people have been killed in flash floods in recent weeks in the Dead Sea and Petra regions.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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