Israel’s scenario of the 'big' earthquake
By Mordechai Goldman
[Professor Eran] Feitelson is a member of a group of researchers that produced in 2018 a comprehensive study of government preparedness for earthquakes. “Earthquake readiness consists of three components: before the event, which involves reinforcing existing buildings; during the event, which involves search and rescue; and after the event, which involves rehabilitation and reconstruction,” he said. “We have a big problem with everything to do with reinforcing and renovating existing buildings. On the other hand, we are in a relatively good state when it comes to rescuing and providing medical treatment to the victims, thanks to the Homefront Command. If there is an earthquake, the biggest catastrophe would take place after the event. The State of Israel has no plan to deal with a scenario in which we have 170,000 people without shelter. We may suppress the idea, but if there is an earthquake we could face a widespread crisis. Similarly, very little has been done to prepare infrastructures for an earthquake. Most public buildings should have been reinforced, but they were not, and most homes in Israel are in danger of collapse in the event of an earthquake.”
One person who is not particularly concerned about these horrifying scenarios is professor Moshe Inbar, an expert on natural disasters at Haifa University. “Where did they come up with this number of 7,000 casualties? Why not 70,000?” he asked in a conversation with Al-Monitor. “If we compare ourselves to California, they had about 10 incidents of 7-plus magnitude over the last few years, yet not one of these incidents claimed more than 100 casualties. Furthermore, it is important to remember that California is 10 times the size of Israel. Chile had an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, and there were only a few hundred casualties there too. And scenarios concerning the destruction of homes are similarly exaggerated and refutable.”
The Ministry of Defense and the Homefront Command has a program in conjunction with Eran Magen [the former deputy commander of the Homefront Command’s National Rescue Unit] to train tenth grade students to participate in light rescue efforts. It’s a unique program, unlike anything else in the world.
Magen is convinced that because of the high security risk, Israel is better prepared to deal with a major earthquake than many other countries. “The Homefront Command is one of the leading earthquake search and rescue groups anywhere in the world, and the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] are continuing to accumulate experience,” he noted. “I participated personally in at least 10 IDF missions involved in search and rescue efforts around the world. Over the last few years, we have also seen the military share much more information with local authorities and civilian rescue services. This is particularly important, because when push comes to shove, everyone will have to take care of themselves in an emergency. We can’t wait for the big army to come rescue us.''