Witnesses recount how quakes rattled Israel, sent hundreds fleeing buildings

Health Ministry warns residents in Beit She’an area to boil water as temblors disturbed groundwater; Turkish rabbi reports two Jews missing near border with Syria

Screen capture from video of light fittings in Israel that were shaken by a major earthquake in Turkey and Syria, February 6, 2023. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of light fittings in Israel that were shaken by a major earthquake in Turkey and Syria, February 6, 2023. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The devastating earthquakes that killed thousands in Syria and Turkey were clearly felt in Israel, where they shook buildings and sent hundreds fleeing for cover.

The first temblor that struck in the middle of the night roused many from their beds. A second quake struck around midday when people were in their offices.

In the northern city of Haifa, buildings rumbled, sending people rushing outside as they headed for open spaces.

It was also felt in central Israel, especially Tel Aviv with its many high-rise buildings, where the structures swayed, sometimes for several minutes.

Some people posted videos on social media showing light fittings swinging as the buildings they were in shook.

“We were in a meeting. We all felt our chairs moving, it was very stressful,” one resident, Yael, told Channel 12 news.

Zivah, who works on the eighth floor of the Tel Aviv municipality building, told the network that, at first, she thought she was taken ill.

“I felt a light dizziness. I looked up and saw that the [ceiling] lights were dancing about,” she said.

In the Emek Hayarden Regional Council, schools activated their earthquake sirens and dozens of students vacated buildings to head for open areas, according to the report.

Moshe Debby, the head of a major PR and communications firm, told Army Radio that the entire high-rise building where he was in Tel Aviv shook, and that it went on for many minutes. “A lamp flew across the room… It was a very unpleasant experience.”

He said everyone in the building rushed downstairs and out.

“Because of high winds outside, I thought it was the arrival of winter storm Barbara,” a Haifa resident told the Walla news site, referring to a large storm that hit Israel on Monday. “It took a few long seconds until I realized that the shaking was inside the house.”

There were no reports of casualties in Israel, but the quakes prompted several warnings from officials that the country was unprepared should a major quake strike closer to home.

The Health Ministry told residents in the Beit She’an area to boil water before drinking as a precaution, as the quake led to an increase in turbidity in the groundwater that is fed into the water system.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau spoke with local Turkish rabbis to get updates on how the disaster was affecting the local Jewish community, his office said in a statement.

Rabbi Menahem Mendel Chitrik, a Chabad emissary in Istanbul, told Lau that his community was doing fine and that the last Jewish person had been freed from under the rubble.

Lau then spoke with Dayan Rabbi Izak Perez of the community in Yeniköy, a neighborhood of Istanbul, who told him there are 12 Jews living near the border with Syria and that two of them were missing.

Efforts were being made to locate the two missing people, Perez said.

Israel sent aid delegations including rescue workers to Turkey to assist in efforts to save people buried under collapsed buildings caused by the earthquakes.

Illustrative. Emergency services workers and first responders participate in an emergency drill simulating an earthquake at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/File)

In light of the earthquake, the IDF Home Front Command asked the public to refamiliarize themselves with instructions on what to do if there is an earthquake.

According to the instructions, those inside buildings should try to leave for an open area outside. If it is not possible to leave the building within the first few seconds after the quake starts, people are advised to enter the building’s shelters, specially fortified rooms that newer buildings have as protection also against rocket attacks. Those who enter such a shelter during an earthquake should leave the door and windows open, the IDF advised.

As an alternative to a shelter, people can also go into the stairwell of the building and use the stairs to make their way outside. If even that is not possible, people should sit in a corner of the room or underneath a heavy piece of furniture while protecting their heads with their hands.

Those who are able to make it to open space should stay away from buildings, trees, electrical cables, and any other object that could collapse.

Anyone driving in a car should stop at the side of the road and wait in the vehicle until the earthquake stops. Drivers are advised to avoid stopping under a bridge or on an interchange.

People at the beach should move away from the coast to a distance of at least one kilometer, as a precaution against a tsunami.

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