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Bielsky Warns: Israel Not Ready for Quake

Israel must work on earthquake preparedness, says MK Bielsky. MKs discuss threat to Haifa.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/23/2011, 10:41 PM

Israel is not prepared for an earthquake despite warnings that one is expected in the region, MK Zev Bielsky (Kadima) said Sunday. Bielsky heads the Subcommittee on Homefront Preparedness.

“I call on the Prime Minister to gather all relevant authorities and put forth solutions to reduce the number of fatalities and casualties in a future quake,” he said. The Tama 38 program to reinforce older buildings has not been implemented “due to bureaucratic difficulties and lack of financial benefit,” he noted.

Solutions to possible earthquake dangers would help in case of an attack on Israel’s homefront as well, he added. Israeli civilians have come under attack in fighting with Hamas and Hizbullah.

His comments followed a major earthquake in Turkey in which up to 1,000 people are feared to have died.

Ammonia in Haifa ‘like Russian Roulette’
The subcommittee also discussed the unique threat facing Haifa, which is home to an oversized ammonia storage tank. Haifa Chemicals has refused to move the tank from its current location in the Haifa Bay industrial zone, despite pressure from the city. The company argues that a move would take many years, and would lead to inefficiency in the supply of ammonia to factories, lowering productivity and causing economic woes.

There is concern that an earthquake, or a missile strike, could lead to a mass-casualty disaster due to the tank’s location in a populated area. Some experts believe there could be deaths as far as 11 kilometers away.

“A direct strike on the storage container would mean thousands of deaths,” said city attorney Reshef Chen. “One could say we’re sitting on a ticking bomb while playing Russian roulette. We really can’t sleep at night with the container in its current location.”