Israelis Totting Up a High Bill From Recent Raging Storm

Tab likely to reach hundreds of millions of shekels, insurance experts say

AFP

Cities and insurance companies yesterday began adding up the direct and indirect damage from this week’s heavy storms after the Israel Electric Corporation failed to repair power lines in time, leaving tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power.

In Kfar Saba, officials put the damage to the municipality and its residents at about 18 million shekels ($4.7 million). Power cables in the town were knocked down as early as Sunday morning when the storm first hit, and for the next three days as many as 25,000 households, businesses and institutions were without electricity, officials estimated.

In nearby Herzilya, officials said the damage came to about 15 million shekels, with 6,500 households, business and institutions left without electricity for an extended period of time. Mayor Moshe Fadlon said he was consulting with legal advisers about suing IEC for compensation.

IEC came under heavy criticism for failing to fix damage and restore power quickly, but management blamed the workers’ committee for much of the problem, saying it initiated a labor slowdown as the storm began. It also cited aging infrastructure and the severity of the storm.

“If someone needed reminding about what’s happened to the power sector, he got it very painfully this week,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edlestein. “I hope the government will act with determination to create conditions for competition and protect the interests of consumers.”

Officials said the damage ranged from food that spoiled because refrigerators stopped working to purchase of emergency equipment and lighting, lost business and direct damage from falling trees and hail. Cities had to pay sanitation crews and others overtime.

By yesterday, most homes and businesses had power back, but IEC reported after another rainstorm that more power lines had come down and 15,000 homes were without electricity. A few hours later it revised the number up to 20,000, mostly in the center and Sharon regions, then corrected itself and said the real number was just 10,000. By evening, the utility was saying just 200 homes were still without power.

Insurance agents said they were flooded with calls for claims yesterday and estimated the insured damage in the hundreds of millions of shekels, of which only 50 million to 100 million will be covered by foreign reinsurance companies.

“We’ve gotten used to the situation where every year there’s weather damage,” said one insurance executiv e, who asked not to be named. “One year it’s flooding, another it’s snow that takes us by surprise. Basically because it happens year after year, it’s no surprise at all.”

With reporting by Asa Sasson