Daily Israel Report

Firefighters Left TA Gas Leak Hours Before Blast

Police investigate charges of negligence by fire department and gas company, after fire crew left building without locating leak.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 3/24/2014, 9:32 AM

Firefighter outside Tel Aviv gas explosion
Firefighter outside Tel Aviv gas explosion
Flash 90

New revelations on the gas explosion that occurred Sunday morning in Tel Aviv indicate that firefighters were at the site nine hours before the blast, and left without locating the leak.

On Sunday morning, a powerful explosion shook the building on Herzl Street and set it on fire, leaving three wounded. One of the three, a 30-year-old woman, was in critical condition, with the other two men suffering from smoke inhalation. The three were transferred to Ichilov Hospital for treatment.

Residents of the unfortunate building told Walla! that they had contacted the police and firefighters several times on Saturday night, around 2 a.m. While Tel Aviv police initially denied the residents' version, later on Sunday they reversed their position and acknowledged they had been called to the building.

According to police, a dispatch arrived on the scene early Sunday morning, where they found firefighters already checking the building. The firefighters reportedly told police that they were not needed, at which point the dispatch left the building.

A police investigation is now checking for negligence on the part of the fire department, since they left the building without locating the leak. Further, negligence is being investigated on the part of gas company Pazgas, after residents reported contacting them during the night without being able to get a technician sent in time.

One resident, Uria Etegdi, reports that on Sunday morning she opened her door and was met by a strong smell of gas: "I contacted the emergency line of Pazgas, but they didn't answer. Later my neighbor who was with me succeeded in contacting them, and they said they'd be there in four hours." The blast occurred two hours later.

Israel has experienced some tragic gas explosions in the recent past. In January, a horrific explosion in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo killed four, including a couple and their infant son, as well as a 60-year-old woman who was the primary caretaker of her aged Holocaust-survivor parents.

Gas lines were cut in a terror attempt early in March, in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. On Sunday, terrorist Aziz Awisat was indicted for planning the incident, as well as several other attacks on Israelis.

Another gas explosion occurred in February in the city of Akko, killing five Arab residents of the town. In early March, Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) accused local authorities of intentionally not renovating after the blast as part of a "nationalist policy of expulsion" to drive out the Arabs from the city.