The Home Front Defense Ministry will hold an extensive drill on October 21, aiming to prepare for a major natural disaster.
One scenario that is expected to be simulated in the annual exercise is a 5.6 magnitude earthquake originating in Eilot, Israel's
southernmost Kibbutz, and spreading across the country, gradually reaching an intensity of 7.1 on the Richter scale. The temblor would cause 7,000 deaths, wound 70,000 and render 170,000 homeless.
The security forces will also prepare for the possibilities that a six-meter tsunami would wash over Tel Aviv's
shores and that dangerous materials would leak during such a quake.
This is the first time that rescue services will assay the prospect of a major temblor.
Dichter, Eisenberg, Ofir on Wednesday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Schools will practice evacuation methods, and in the evening the general public will be asked via the media to go outside without being prompted by a siren.
As part of the drill, the Home Front Command will demolish a building in the central Israeli city of Holon in order to simulate search and rescue efforts. Meanwhile, IDF
units will be dispatched to various sites to provide emergency response while reserve forces are called in.
One phase of the drill was held a week ago, at the Ben Gurion Airport,
where crews practiced receiving and distributing aid arriving from across the world.
The first few days of the drill will deal with emergency response. Only on the eighth day will the state begin a "years-long rehabilitation process." The police will practice maintaining control immediately after disaster strikes, before handing off the responsibility to the IDF and the Defense Ministry
GOC Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg said Wednesday that Israel's location in an area where tectonic plates meet make it prone to such disasters. He noted that the IDF will initially practice partial availability, in case some of its bases are hit in the quake.
Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said that unlike a missile strike case, the state won't be warned about an earthquake ahead of time.
"It would be pretty scary if it catches us off guard, and the situation will look different if we don't practice," he said.
Dichter cautioned against clinging to the belief that Israel is only hit by a major earthquake once in a century. The last such disaster occurred in 1927 in the Tiberias and Safed regions, and claimed the lives of 300 people. The minister, however, noted that "over the past 1,000 years earthquakes have rocked the region every 35 years, killing 15,000 people."
"Our goal is to make sure that the state doesn't tremble even if the earth does," he said, noting that a major quake would bear no resemblance to emergencies caused by wars or major fires.
According to Dichter, 80 local authorities will take part in the exercise.
The ministry's new director, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ofir, said that the army expects that more than 150,000 people would have to be evacuated if a major earthquake strikes, and added that such a scenario will require the activation of forces beyond the Home Front Command.