Israeli Army's Brutally Honest Response: Get Ready for Major Earthquake With 'Thousands Dead'

After two tremors in northern Israel, the Home Front Command responded to concerned citizens by warning of a devastating earthquake sometime in the future

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol
A worker explains a new earthquake early warning system during a demonstration at the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem, earlier this month.
A worker explains a new earthquake early warning system during a demonstration at the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem, earlier this month.Credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

A massive earthquake killing thousands of civilians is expected to hit Israel at some point in the future, the Army Home Front Command warned on Tuesday, following a small earthquake in northern Israel. Another small earthquake occurred shortly after the announcement.

The initial tremor was measured at a magnitude of 3.5 on the Richter scale and was felt by residents in Beit She'an, Tiberius, Safed and the Jordan Valley.

Responding to concerned comments on its official Facebook page, the civil defense agency stated that “a strong earthquake is expected to occur in the State of Israel, which will cause a mass disaster accompanied by thousands of dead and injured and extensive destruction of buildings and infrastructure” although it cautioned that while experts believe that “a strong earthquake will occur in Israel, but it can not be predicted” with any certainty.

Israel's Home Front Command warning Israelis on Facebook

However, the agency stated, “the fact that there has not been a strong earthquake in a long time increases the chance that a strong earthquake will occur in Israel soon.”

On Wednesday morning, Less than a day after the army’s online statement, another small earthquake with a magnitude of 3.1 struck in northern Israel, 14 kilometers northeast of Beit She’an. Police said they had received several calls about the quake but no reports of injuries or damage.

The quakes on Tuesday and Wednesday were the fourth and fifth to strike Israel since October. Last month, Israel was struck by two earthquakes within 12 hours. The first measured a 3.7 on the Richter scale and was felt throughout the north of the country. Israel’s Geological Survey said that the epicenter of the quake was 16 kilometers (about 10 miles), northeast of Beit She’an. Later that day, an additional earthquake, measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, was felt in the same location.

In October, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 took place near Crete. The epicenter of the quake was south of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea.

Last week, Israel formally launched the long-promised nationwide Truaa (“trumpet blast”) Early Earthquake Warning System while, while not predictive, can warn that a quake is happening, giving people living relatively far from the epicenter a precious number of seconds to protect themselves.

For instance, if the system detects a quake in the north Dead Sea, people in Jerusalem will have about 3 seconds to react, but in Tel Aviv they’ll have 18 seconds and in Haifa 30 seconds. If the quake is in the Beit She’an valley, locals will have no warning time, but Tel Avivians will have about 19 seconds, and Haifa dwellers and Jerusalemites about 20 seconds.

The Truaa system is based on about 120 sensors, according to the Geological Survey, which are deployed throughout the country but most densely in seismically active areas: the Dead Sea Transform and the Yagur fault (aka the Mount Carmel fault).

According to experts, if you are inside a building during a quake, you should run outside.

If you cannot run outside, run into the so-called mamad – safe room-cum-bomb shelter – but leave the door open (unlike during a missile attack). If you cannot run outside and there is no mamad, take shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a table or desk, which will hopefully protect you from falling debris.

Ruth Schuster contributed to this report.

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