Aftermath of New Zealand Earthquake
Aftermath of New Zealand EarthquakeIsrael news photo: courtesy of

The State Comptroller’s report on Israel’s earthquake preparedness this month paints a dismal picture, expecting a 7.5 quake to kill 16,000 people and leave 377,000 homeless. Minister Benny Begin, a geologist and the minister responsible for earthquake preparedness, says it's impossible and illogical to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

The report was the subject of a debate at the Knesset Audit Committee today. Minister Begin did not accept the report’s conclusions, saying it simply is a way of “scaring the public.” He added, “Japan didn’t prepare for a 9.0 earthquake… If people were to prepare for the worst-case scenario before entering their car, they would either never drive, or else only if they had an armed personnel carrier.”

Selected quotes from Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ report:

“Most earthquake experts feel that the eventuality of an earthquake in Israel that is liable to exact thousands of victims and cause significant damage to property and buildings is almost certain, and that such a quake will definitely come sooner or later…

“A quake of 7.5 on the Richter scale in northern Israel is expected to cause 16,000 deaths, 6,000 seriously injured, 83,000 lightly injured, 377,000 evacuated from their homes...

“Though it is vital that hospitals continue to operate after an earthquake, many northern hospital buildings are very old and not built according to contemporary standards. A Health Ministry survey found that most of them are liable to collapse during an earthquake.”

Minister Begin said at the session that money for reinforcing public structures has been allocated in this year’s budget, and that the planning regarding over 60 such buildings are in the final stages. He said that reinforcement work on 60 schools, three hospitals and some fire stations is expected to begin this year.

Other damages expected to be caused by a 7.5 quake in Israel, according to the Comptroller’s report, include 680 breaks in sewage pipes, breaks in the National Water Carrier and other water and gas pipelines, collapse of or damage to schools, electric outages, and the partial collapse of two overpasses near Haifa.