Israel Joins U.S. and Japan in Placing Tsunami Emergency Instructions on Beaches

Though the last tsunami felt on Israel’s shores was in 1956, it gets tsunami warnings every three months on average.

Signs warning how to behave in the event of a tsunami. Ashdod beach, Israel.
Daniel Khananashvili

Dozens of signs warning how to behave in the event of a tsunami have been erected along Ashdod’s beaches by the National Emergency Authority, which will be posting similar signs in the next week along Ashkelon’s beaches and power station and at Ashdod Port.

This type of signage is found in many countries, including Italy, Thailand, the United States and Japan. The signs were posted in anticipation of a tsunami preparedness exercise scheduled for next month in Ashdod, which will simulate a tsunami hitting the city’s coast. Expanding the pilot to other coastal cities will then be considered. To date some 25 percent of all the known tsunamis in history have occurred in the Mediterranean Sea.

There are four different types of signs on the beaches — signs marking areas likely to be flooded, signs marking the start of the escape route in the event of a tsunami, signs all along the escape route pointing to a safe area and then signs marking the safe area. Soon additional signs will be erected indicating safe areas in buildings near the shore.

According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, after a risk assessment conducted by experts it was decided to prepare for tsunami waves as high as five meters, which means that safe areas would have to be at least 10 meters above sea level.

A report by the emergency department of the Environmental Protection Ministry states that a tsunami with five-meter-high waves could be expected to shut down 93 factories for periods of weeks or months, cause casualties and undermine the power supply. Such a storm could end up causing considerable ground, sea, and air pollution and damage the coastal aquifer.

Dr. Amos Solomon of the Geological Survey of Israel told Haaretz that the last tsunami felt on Israel’s shores was in 1956, when an earthquake occurred in the Aegean Sea near Greece and a tsunami-force wave was measured by a device at Jaffa Port. Solomon stressed, however, that there were no reports of anyone seeing large waves and there was no damage to Israel’s beaches. That was the only such incident here documented in a scientific fashion.

The last tsunami that actually caused damage to the shoreline occurred in 1759. According to Solomon there were apparently two such waves within a month, in October and November of that year, that damaged the coasts of what is now Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

In an article Solomon published in the journal Galileo, he wrote that the frequency of moderate tsunamis in this region is one every 250 years. To date some 25 percent of all the known tsunamis in history have occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, with a significant tsunami occurring every hundred years or so. Israel gets tsunami warnings every three months on average, though the last one was almost a year ago, on April 16, 2015, following an undersea earthquake near Crete that measured 6.1 on the Richter scale.