Israeli Defense Ministry Readies for Major Earthquake

One option the ministry is exploring is building of a number of residential compounds that could hold more than a million evacuated residents for up to three years

A man stares at the rubble that a devastating earthquake caused the previous week, Portoviejo, Ecuador, April 20, 2016.
Rodrigo Abd, AP

The Defense Ministry is preparing for the possibility of a powerful earthquake that would cause mass casualties and extensive damage to infrastructure and property.

Among options the ministry is examining is the building of a number of temporary residential compounds in various areas of the country that could hold more than a million evacuated residents for up to three years. These compounds would include community services like emergency clinics and temporary schools.

The ministry recently requested information from suppliers on the feasibility of operating a wide-ranging absorption scheme for coping with an earthquake, which indicates the scenarios the ministry is planning for. The ministry asked for information on residential compounds that can be erected within one to three months. The compound must have housing units tailored to families of five, with two bedrooms, kitchen, living room, shower and toilet, a service area and a storeroom. The compounds themselves must include infrastructure including access roads, electricity, water, sewerage and firefighting services. The ministry is considering a series of such compounds that, if needed, could provide housing for 230,000 families.

The structures being considered are modular and can be assembled and disassembled quickly and repeatedly, and be moved by air or sea. The Defense Ministry will use the information it gets as the basis for soliciting bids from suppliers who could erect such an array of facilities, if it is decided to implement the plan.

The ministry is also preparing for the possibility of a large number of evacuees needing medical care after an earthquake of this scope. The ministry asks suppliers for information on erecting 200 clinics that could serve 150,000 people, each of which would have to include examining rooms, a waiting room, a drug room and a lab. The clinics would need sanitary facilities, lighting, showers and furnishings.

The ministry is also seeking information on erecting 200 additional structures to serve as police stations, offices of government ministries and community centers that would also serve 150,000 people. The plan includes 400 public toilet structures to serve 10,000 people.

The Defense Ministry believes that in the event of a severe earthquake that has consequences that could last years, there will be a need to build schools and preschools to be used for up to three years. The ministry is looking to build 200 schools and preschools in the residential compounds to serve 150,000 pupils.

Last June the Home Front Command conducted an exercise on responding to an earthquake, which simulated the security establishment’s perception of the possible damage that could be caused in such an event. The exercise posited an earthquake of 7.1 on the Richter scale that caused thousands of deaths and the evacuation of 150,000 people. Security and rescue forces also practiced rescuing people trapped in collapsed buildings and coping with infrastructure failures.