If Israel experiences anything like the earthquake that hit Italy on Saturday, it is likely to have a similar or worse result in terms of deaths and damage.
The Government Steering Committee has calculated a nation-wide disaster scenario of a strong earthquake 7.5 on the Richter Scale centered around Beit She’an. 16,000 people are estimated to die in such an event, 6,000 will be seriously injured, 377,000 will be evacuated from their homes, 10,000 buildings will be destroyed and 20,00 will suffer severe damage.
Older buildings in Israel that are three stories high or more would completely collapse in the event of an earthquake, due to proximity to the Great Rift Valley that runs from Africa to Syria. Tiberias, Safed, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an and Eilat would be especially vulnerable.
Eleven years after the Tama 38 bill aimed at fortifying older buildings built before 1980 was voted into law, only 5,000 apartments in 430 buildings have been fortified, out of the 120,000 that are in need of such construction work. 15,000 are currently being renovated in accordance to Tama 38, and 30,000 more have submitted a request to begin the process.
About 60 percent of Tama 38 projects are located in the larger cities of Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Haifa, Herzliya, Ra’anana, Ashdod and Rishon Lezion. Cities in the periphery who especially need it, such as the northern city of Safed, have not seen any fortification projects.
Safed mayor Ilan Shohat said, “The Tama 38 format is incompatible with the very cities and settlements that need it. I’m sure we’ll get the necessary budgets after the next earthquake, but by then there won’t be anyone left to use them.”
Earlier this month a new agreement was signed between the Construction and Housing Ministry and state-owned housing company Amidar, for Amidar to carry out many Tama 38 projects in the periphery which will fortify or rebuild 3,500 existing housing units.