Tiberias Woman Killed by Falling Eucalyptus

Esther Levi, a 45-year-old mother of four from Tiberias, was killed yesterday when a large tree fell on her, its roots apparently weakened by the heavy rains of the last two days.

Levy was walking down the city's Shimon Dahan St. on her way home from work at around noon. She worked just 300 meters up the street from her house. But when she was only 30 meters from home, a eucalyptus tree suddenly collapsed on her.

The Fire and Rescue Service and a Magen David Adom ambulance crew got her out from under the 20-meter-high tree, resuscitated her and took her to Poriya Hospital in critical condition. There, she was declared dead from injuries to her head and chest. She was buried yesterday afternoon in Tiberias.

"The family only recently moved to the new apartment. They planned to celebrate today, and in the end it was such a great tragedy," said a neighbor.

"It was a huge eucalyptus tree," said Galila Sheetrit, who lives nearby and saw the accident. "Suddenly I saw the tree collapse and I heard a loud noise, just like a bomb ... We ran immediately to the spot, but we couldn't do anything to save her." Sheetrit said she had warned the city in the past about the tree, whose trunk, like many others in the area, had been burned. She said city officials told her it was not their responsibility.

The Tiberias municipality said that over the past year, it had received no complaints about trees that might collapse in that area. Moreover, it said, the land on which the tree stood belongs to the Jewish Agency, not the city.

Michael Weinberger, a veteran forester with the Jewish National Fund, said that while it is impossible to say for certain why the tree collapsed, the heavy rains might well have undermined the soil around its roots, leaving it with nothing to anchor it to the ground.

The storm that began on Monday and continued yesterday throughout most of the country produced no major change in Lake Kinneret's water level and hence no significant improvement in the water crisis. Scattered showers are likely today and tomorrow as well, though most of the rain will fall in the north.

The largest amount of rain fell in Jerusalem, 53 millimeters over the last two days. Elsewhere the rain was much lighter, in the 10 to 23 millimeter range. In the Judean Desert there was no precipitation at all.

The heavy rains near Jerusalem sent large quantities of water into the Ayalon River, which only made the waterway's pollution problem worse. Sewage from a fault in a sewer line near Hiriya has been flowing into the Ayalon for over a month, and at 2 A.M. yesterday, the flooding breached the dam built to hold back the sewage, causing it to once again flow toward the sea near Tel Aviv.

The Water Authority said it hoped this would be the last breach, as it expected to finish repairs on the sewage line by the end of the month.