Bnei Brak Asbestos Crisis Closes Buildings, Stores

Asbestos in an old warehouse that caught fire has shut down a part of one of Israel's largest business zones.

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Yaakov Levi,

Firefighters (file)
Firefighters (file)
Flash 90

A major fire in Bnei Brak last week may have a long-term environmental impact on one of Israel's busiest business district.

Environmental Ministry officials said Sunday that people in the area of the Bnei Brak Industrial Zone, one of Israel's largest, should stay at least 50 meters away from the BSR Towers, because of the danger of burning asbestos.

According to officials, inspectors have discovered a large amount of asbestos in a warehouse next to the building. The 24 and 27 story towers themselves were built in 2004, when building with asbestos was illegal. However, the buildings were constructed next to a large abandoned warehouse, which was full of asbestos.

Asbestos has been shown to cause a myriad of diseases, including cancer – and is at its most dangerous when it is burning, as vapors easily seep into the air supply and are breathed in by unsuspecting victims. 

A major fire broke out in the warehouse last Wednesday, causing the towers and the area near the warehouse to be evacuated – and environmental officials said Sunday that there was still too much asbestos in the air to allow anyone to return to work. Officials actually expanded the evacuation zone Sunday, banning anyone from coming within 50 meters, and recommending that people stay several hundred meters away from the site of the fire, if possible.

Windows should remain shut and air conditioners off as well, they said. Fire officials said they had issued orders to keep stores and businesses in the area closed for the time being.

According to the fire department, parts of the building are still smoldering, and it may take days to completely douse the fire. It is not clear when the asbestos threat will pass, officials added.