Dr. Ephraim Laor, who headed the National Steering Committee for Earthquake Preparedness, warned on Monday against Israel’s lack of preparedness to deal with an earthquake.
Experts have warned that Israel is also expected to be hit by a major earthquake.
“Israeli residents live in a country that is expected to be hit by things like a tsunami and earthquakes,” Dr. Laor said, adding that the Israeli government has taken into account different scenarios that could result from a major earthquake. These include a likelihood of 16,000 deaths, 90,000 injuries, and 400,000 people who will lose their homes.
He noted, however, that despite the fact that Israel is aware of these possibilities, “very little has been done and much more could be done.”
Dr. Laor noted the government has approved a large budget that was allotted for earthquake preparation, but that nothing has been done with it. Last year, he said, 60 million NIS were allocated for this purpose but not even one million has been used.
He explained that many things can be done with the allocated budget.
“Whoever looks at the pictures from Turkey can see that the citizens themselves are the ones doing the rescue work,” he said. “Therefore, citizens need to be trained and taught what to do, what not to do, and how to be useful in case of an earthquake. As long as there is no such training, we should be living in reinforced structures and sending our children to reinforced school buildings, but this is not being done.”
Laor said that he cannot understand how it is that the amount allocated for this task has yet to be spent.
“I cannot explain it. It goes against any reason and is contrary to the dynamics of a government,” he said, adding that funds were allocated to purchase a warning system for earthquake. This system could alert residents within seconds of an impending quake. The cost of this system is only about 20,000 NIS, a small amount considering the allotted budget.
“There is a government decision, there is money allocated for this, and yet it does not happen,” said Dr. Laor. “It’s like seeing a burning house and standing in front of it with a fire engine but not using it to extinguish the flames.”
“In order to understand what will happen here when an earthquake hits, all we have to do is turn on the broadcasts from Turkey and translate them into Hebrew,” he added. “There is a minister responsible for this issue, there is a budget, there is a government decision, and we have everything. We just need to do something.”
In the meantime, Dr. Laor is suggesting that Israeli citizens take responsibility for their own lives and begin to prepare themselves for an earthquake.
“Just as every citizen prepares food and purchases clothing for himself, he needs to prepare himself for an earthquake,” he concluded.
On Sunday, MK Ze’ev Bielski (Kadima) said Israel is not prepared for an earthquake.
Bielski, who heads the Knesset’s Subcommittee on Homefront Preparedness, called 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.”
Bielski noted that an existing program to reinforce older buildings has not been implemented “due to bureaucratic difficulties and lack of financial benefit.”