Kadima MK: Israel Unprepared for Large Earthquake

Gov't institutions say a 7.5 quake would kill 16,000 people and injure 90,000, and leave 400,000 homeless.

MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) sent a letter Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on him to allocate funds to prepare Israel for the eventuality of an earthquake. The financial cabinet decided in June 2008 to allow NIS 3.5 billion through the next 25 years to strengthen public structures. But the 2009 budget did not pass, and no funds have been made available for the task.

Israel experiences a large, potentially lethal, earthquake every 80 to 90 years. The last such quake happened some 80 years ago. The scenario for which government institutions are expected to be prepared presupposes a quake scoring 7.5 on the Richter scale with an epicenter in the Beit She'an valley. It could be expected to kill 16,000 people and injure another 90,000, destroying 130,000 buildings and leaving approximately 400,000 people homeless. The casualty forecast reflects the fact that most residential buildings in Israel were built before earthquake regulations were put in place.

Israel is considered to be completely unprepared for a serious earthquake. The risk of casualties is considered to be much greater should the quake strike in the morning hours, when about 2 million children and staff are in educational establishments. Half the schools and preschools in Israel are not reinforced for earthquakes.

A serious quake is considered likelier to happen in the north of the country, where as many as four hospital wings could collapse in the event.