Heavy rainstorms that raged across Israel last week caused tens of millions of shekels in damage to fighter jets and maintenance equipment at an army base in southern Israel, as hangars and repair workshops were flooded.
In addition, the Israel Air Force had to rescue soldiers who were quartered in the area near the planes, with no injuries reported.
A senior Israel Air Force official admitted Monday that eight of Israel's most advanced fighter jets were severely damaged, adding it could have been prevented if the army had prepared for the stormy weather in advance.
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Three of the planes suffered serious damage, while five sustained lesser damage and could return to service in the coming weeks, the official projected.
He added that the jets that were transferred from the hangers to the runways at the base before the rainstorms struck remained intact. According to Air Force estimates, if all fighter jets had been removed from the hangers beforehand – which was technically possible – the damage to all planes would have been averted. The army refused to disclose the number of combat jets parked in the flooded base.
While admitting that the damage to the jets could have been prevented, the official blamed the civil authorities for failing to build drainage systems for the rainwater. The official said that the base in question is situated in an area prone to flooding and that the Air Force is incapable of draining floodwater by itself.
But the Air Force is responsible of draining rainwater accumulated in structures within IDF bases, including the hangers in which the damaged planes were parked.
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The rainwater reached the height of the aircraft's wings, and planes were towed from the hangers and repair workshops only after they were flooded. Some maintenance equipment was irreparably damaged and the army refused to answer whether any weapons, like missiles or bombs, had been damaged.
However, the military said operational capabilities were never compromised.
Although weather forecasts predicted the heavy flooding, no preparations were made to prevent possible damage.
“Due to the harsh weather conditions last week, streams near the air force base in the south overflowed and flooded some parts of the base, damaging several planes. They will be repaired and returned to flight in the coming days. Moreover, rainwater was pumped from the base over the weekend,” the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement, adding there were no casualties in the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.