Home Front Command: 1600 Schools at Risk from Earthquakes
Millions of Israeli citizens would be in immediate danger in the event of another earthquake, the Home Front Command revealed Monday.
Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) presented the findings to the Knesset Committee for Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection, Maariv reports - and concluded that serious measures need to be taken by the State to improve earthquake preparedness.
"Unfortunately, I cannot say when it comes to earthquakes that the government is doing its job responsibly," Erdan stated. "Preparedness efforts are spread among too many government agencies, leading to not enough preparedness overall."
Erdan's comments ring loud in the wake of last month's snowstorm, which saw thousands without power across Israel. A government investigation at a special Knesset Committee session revealed that redundancy between government agencies was to blame for the lag.
Erdan warned that the study's findings are urgent; Israel is due for another major earthquake.
"Israel's history shows that about 80-90 years pass between major earthquakes," he told the Committee. "It's been about 90 years since the last major earthquake. You can do the math on your own."
Local government officials claim that they do not have enough administrative power to deal with a crisis, even pointing out that a simple list of equipment needed for an emergency situation has not been provided by the Ministry of Defense.
Regarding specific measures to be taken, Erdan stressed the need to strengthen buildings. Over 800,000 housing units and 1600 schools are not up to required codes for earthquake preparation, the Minister said. As a result, "millions of Israelis will be in danger" in the event of another major tremor.
The Director of Construction and the Ministry of Education budget, Ilana Shoshani, confirmed the minister's comments and explained that all schools built before 1980 do not meet the standard required.
A representative from the Finance Ministry at the meeting claimed that millions of NIS had already been allocated for earthquake preparedness. Erdan fired back, "How can the Ministry of Finance claim that there have been millions of NIS allocated for the preparedness drills, when the head of this very committee was not informed of the matter? What the Ministry of Finance has done is simply pulled the wool over our eyes and made us feel like the State of Israel is prepared for an earthquake."
Committee Chairman Miri Regev (Likud) concluded the meeting by acknowledging that the government is now more keenly aware of the scope of the problem - and that there could be more fatalities in the event of a disaster. Regarding practical measures, she concluded that "distribution of powers is the primary failure, and I expect it to be resolved."