National Security Council said preparing $14 billion earthquake readiness plan

If approved by gov’t, it would see strengthening of 600,000 residential buildings, 80,000 commercial properties — with focus on high-risk cities such as Beit She’an, Tiberias

View of neighborhoods in the city of Tiberias on December 17, 2017. (David Cohen/Flash90)
View of neighborhoods in the city of Tiberias on December 17, 2017. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The National Security Council is readying a NIS 50 billion ($14 billion) plan to prepare Israeli towns and cities for a potential major earthquake similar to that witnessed in Turkey and Syria this week, according to a Thursday report.

Channel 12 said the council met in the aftermath of the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which also saw multiple aftershocks felt across Israel.

The plan, if approved by the ministerial committee responsible for earthquake preparedness in the coming week, will then be forwarded to the government for approval.

It is said to call for a major financial investment in preparedness, with the National Security Council asking for NIS 3 billion ($858 million) to immediately reinforce 40,000 apartments located in at-risk areas such as Afula, Beit She’an and Tiberias, which sit along the Great Rift Valley, prone to major temblors.

Over a five-year period, the government will be asked to invest a massive NIS 50 billion in order to strengthen 600,000 residential buildings and 80,000 non-residential structures such as office buildings and hospitals, the report said.

Last year, a comptroller report found there were 600,000 buildings in the country that do not meet the standard for earthquake resistance. The Education Ministry told The Times of Israel on Monday that there are 1,600 such buildings used as schools or as other educational institutions, with upgrade processes being initiated in around 1,100 of them.

A man sits among the rubble of collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras, on February 9, 2023, three days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southeast Turkey. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

While similar earthquake readiness plans have been floated in the past without coming to fruition, Channel 12 said that there was genuine intent in the National Security Cabinet to actualize this current proposal, triggered by the incredible scenes of destruction witnessed in both Turkey and Syria.

The report quoted an unnamed security official involved in the plan who said, “We can feel [the potential Israeli earthquake] right around the corner. Now is the time to act.”

An apartment block undergoing strengthening through the Tama 38 regulations.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman warned this week that the TAMA 38 project, launched in 2005 and aimed at encouraging renovation work to prepare buildings for earthquakes, has not been sufficiently implemented and that other action is required instead. Speaking Monday with high school students, he noted that according to previous estimations, a major earthquake could kill 7,000 people and leave 170,000 homeless.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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