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February 7, 2023 9:26 am

Analysis: Is Israel Ready for the Earthquake to Come?

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avatar by i24 News

In July 2015, a 4.3-magnitude earthquake struck around the Dead Sea (pictured) in Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

i24 News – Israel will face a major earthquake and likely in the not-too-distant future.

“History tells us that roughly every one hundred years there is a very large earthquake, of magnitude 6 or above, and every thousand years there’s a massive one, 7 or higher, along the Dead Sea fault,” warned Nadav Wetzler, an Israel Geological Survey seismologist.

The last big earthquake in Israel’s immediate region was in 1927, the 6.2 magnitude “Jericho Earthquake.” It killed hundreds of people, and destroyed thousands of buildings.

That was nearly 100 years ago. Is Israel ready for the next one?

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“I would say partly ready, the government formed a commission to coordinate the responses of the different government agencies and ministries. We also have developed a system for early warning – but this is only good when the earthquake is already happening,” said Shmuel Marco, a professor if geophysics at Tel Aviv University.

An early warning system may help people scramble from buildings before it collapses, but too many of Israel’s buildings are vulnerable to falling down. A report by the state comptroller’s office last month said 600-thousand buildings in Israel are not strong enough to resist quakes, including most of the earthquake-prone Galilee region.

Buildings constructed before 1980 were not legally required to be built to withstand earthquakes, but of 1.5 billion dollars allocated to strengthen Israel’s older buildings since 2019, less than 2 million has been used in the seismically active north of the country.

For many, the TAMA urban renewal program is the only change at upgrading building safety, and the only chance. Construction in Israel may still be outdated, but emergency response is not, and has been preparing for a major quake for years.

Israel’s Homefront Command, a part of the Israeli military dealing with civil defense, and emergency services practice regular drills, and call on residents to make plans as well. Uri Shacham, a senior official at Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency service, also urges residents to be prepared.

“Make sure you have an escape kit in your house. Make sure all your family knows what to do in case of a quake. Make sure they all go to immediately outside. Go to your safe room or go to the stairway. Wait over there and call the authorities.”

But ultimately, there are limits to both preparation and construction – a major earthquake that hits without warning – such as the one that ravaged Turkey and Syria – would devastate Israel all the same. Meaning readiness is about preparing for the aftermath.

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