Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised first responders, the Israel Electric Company (IEC) and government bodies on Saturday for the way they have been functioning in the heavy snow storm of the last four days. Netanyahu credited the emergency teams with saving many lives.
"Saving human lives was our first and top priority,” he stressed, at a public briefing in the emergecy headquarters where rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts are being coordinated. “There was no home in Israel that we needed to reach and failed to reach.”
"The roads are gradually being reopened,” he said. “We were prepared in the way that a state needs to be prepared. Other countries are paralyzed for longer periods of time in such events.”
IEC Director Yiftah Ron-Tal said that the company's employees are working around the clock to reconnect homes that were cut off from electricity. In the course of Sunday, he estimated, most of the disconnected homes will regain power, but “there will be several thousand homes that will be disconnected for another 48 hours.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that an effort was being made to supply food to people who had been without electricity. Barkat said that the roads would be reopened in three phases: first, to the city. Second, to the Central Bus Station. And third, from the Central Bus Station to the centers of neighborhoods.
"I believe that thanks to the extraordinary way all of the bodies involved functioned, many lives were saved,” said Netanyahu. “In other countries, there were very many lives lost in every storm of this kind, and our ability to reach our achievements is the result of cooperation by citizens, who are offering a lot of help to security forces and rescuers.”
"The storm's peak is behind us but we have many missions ahead of us,” the prime minister said. “We will continue to work all night tonight and tomorrow. Malfunctions can still happen and we must continue to be careful and responsible. The roads are opening gradually and I am warning drivers, pleading with them, to drive carefully.”
Netanyahu noted that low temperatures could cause freezing on the roads, making them very slipper and dangerous. “Closing the roads, by a police decision, was important and critical and helped us to avoid tragedies,” he added.
Police Commissioner Lt-Gen Yohanan Danino said that Highway 1 to Jerusalem would be open by Sunday morning at the latest but that Highway 443 would remain closed for at least another 48 hours.
Video: Snow in Efrat, Filmed by Natan Epstein