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Almost 20,000 cut off from power as political blame game begins

While more than 19,5000 households still cut off from power, police, Jerusalem Municipality, Electric Corporation begin to pass buck. 'It's like the 19th century,' said man who was stranded for 72 hours

Ynet reporters
Published: 12.15.13, 01:02 / Israel News

With more than 19,500 households still cut off from power, the political blame game has already begun.

 

As politicians and governmental bodies – from the police to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) – exchanged verbal blows, Jerusalem and numerous small communities were still cut off from the rest of the country, and it remains unclear how and when things will return to normal.

 

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Among the sole pieces of good news which can be reported is that electricity has been restored in Givat Shaul and Kiryat Yovel neighborhoods in Jerusalem, as well as in most of Safed's neighborhoods.

 

APC under Jerusalem Chords Bridge (Photo: Itay Cohen)
APC under Jerusalem Chords Bridge (Photo: Itay Cohen)

 

IDF humvees in Jerusalem (Photo: Nir Yogev)
IDF humvees in Jerusalem (Photo: Nir Yogev)

 

During the storm, the MDA received over 10,000 calls for assistance, of them 8,829 from Jerusalem alone, and 313 for child births.

 

Among those still waiting for the power to return was Ido, 35, from Ein Hemed, a father of three, the youngest of which is only two months old. Ido and his family were stranded without electricity for over 24-hours. "We covered ourselves and the children with blankets, to warm them any way possible. The biggest issue was with baby, thank God he is still nursing because if not we wouldn't have had a way to warm his milk."

 

He added, "It's like we have returned to the 19th centry: No phone, no cellular network, we have no idea what's going on outside."

 

Storm sellers (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Storm sellers (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

  

72-hour siege

Itamar, from Tzur Hadasa, a father of a one and a half year old baby was cut off from power for more than a day as well. However, all the roads to Tzur Hadassah were blocked and it was the largest Israeli community to be snowed-in.

 

"No one from the municipally came. There was no situation room or messages. Tzur Hadassah is a big place, and it was cut off for 72 hours. We had nowhere to go and our kid was sick. We felt alone in the world."

 

Jerusalem snow (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Jerusalem snow (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

 

Snowed-in streets (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Snowed-in streets (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
  

 

Many residents from the Jerusalem area and Israel's periphery describe a similar scene. While the capital itself was manned with army APCs working to clean out snow, and a special emergency situation room – they were left to fend for themselves.

 

So, who is to blame?

No authority can control the weather, but the State does have the responsibility to take steps in preparation of such an incident, as do main service providers.

 

PM, Jerusalem mayor hold press conference (Photo :Ohad Zwigenberg)
PM, Jerusalem mayor hold press conference (Photo :Ohad Zwigenberg)
 

The Israel Electric Corporation – which has been working to restore power to over 60,000 households who were disconnected (the current figure rests at 19,500 homes) – has been the target of most of the complaints. According to them the police and Jerusalem Municipality are to blame for failing to properly coordinate with one another and with the electricity supplier.

 

According to the IEC, once learning Friday that 60,000 houses were disconnected from power, dozens of their crews were ready to deal with the issue; but were blocked from entering because the municipality was late to activate snow plow crews, costing them precious hours.

 

They also claim that the municipality failed to cut down overgrown trees, tress which later fell and caused massive power shortages throughout the capital.

 

But the Jerusalem Municipality refuses to accept the blame and according to them, the police, IDF and Electric Corporation are at fault.

 

"Even the director-general of the Electric Corporation, Yiftah Ron Tal, said that even if we would have trimmed the trees the problem wouldn't have been solved," a municipal source said, adding "the problem is with the infrastructure of certain areas. They haven’t been changed for years because of budgetary reasons."

 

Regarding the army, the source said "at first, they didn't take their mission seriously. The mayor told the army this is a national emergency and the city needs help, but they sent few people," the source said, claiming the army was logistically ill-prepared for the mission.

 

 

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