The flooding in the south should not have come as a surprise to the authorities. Every winter, wide swaths of the country are doomed to chaos by heavy rains and thunderstorms, and as of last summer, it was already clear that this winter would be unusually severe. The recent storm, which was admittedly very powerful, and the amount of rainfall, which was admittedly higher than normal, do not justify the destruction and the forced closure of essential roads - and certainly not the loss of life.
In Eilat, for instance, it was known that the storm was liable to flood some of the city's major arteries, but it was only a few days before the rain started that work finally began on deepening the clogged drainage ditches. It was too little, too late, and the main arteries of this southern city were flooded with huge quantities of water. Now the city will have to invest large sums of money in repairing the roads, buildings and public spaces - expenses that could have been spared by responsible forethought. And yesterday, it became clear that infrastructure in the north was also unable to withstand the storm.
The damage caused by the power outages, the broken water pipelines and the flooding in the south was enormous, but the Mekorot Water Company and the Israel Electric Corporation - which were supposed to have laid down long-lasting infrastructure that would not collapse - as usual made do with temporary emergency solutions. It is outrageous to discover, once again, that successive Israeli governments, which paved broad, well-protected roads for settlements in the territories, neglected both the north and the south within the Green Line. For example, a narrow, poorly maintained road links Kerem Shalom and Kadesh Barnea with the nearest major junction, and even if it is repaired now, it will once again be flooded and destroyed by the next storm. The Nitzana overpass was also not properly inspected and reinforced.
The news coverage has focused on the daring rescue operations mounted by civilian and military groups with expertise in conducting rescues in flooded areas. Such operations endanger the rescuers' lives and cost the taxpayer a sizable sum. Yet suitable investment in infrastructure and the precaution of closing off dangerous roads and areas in advance would prevent disasters, and thereby the need for rescue operations.
The state's responsibility toward its citizens is not tested solely by heroic rescues from roads that have turned into raging torrents. The true test lies in building infrastructure suitable for normal, safe living and making appropriate preparations for storms.
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