Three thousand people demonstrated in front of the Haifa District Court Sunday in an effort to bring about the closure of the city’s ammonia tank, which was ruled by a separate court to be a serious danger to public health.
Meanwhile, as the protestors called on the courts to act swiftly, inside the court judges were considering and were preparing to rule on the petition filed by Haifa Chemicals against closing it.
By 1:30pm, the court announced that a final decision would be taken on the matter in the coming days, and would be given no later than Wednesday.
Haifa’s Court for Local Affairs had previously cited the serious health hazards entailed in keeping the facility operational, and consequently ordered Haifa Chemicals to close the ammonia tank within 10 days, a time limit which expired last Tuesday.
However, the decision was scrapped after Haifa’s District Court permitted the company to keep the tank open and active until the petition was heard.
With the onset of the protests, which got underway in the morning, roads in the city were closed. Middle and high schools in Haifa and nearby cities were also closed until 12:00pm to allow students to participate in the demonstration.
Overall, more than 33,000 students will be affected by the disruptions. National Student Council Chairman Hanan Yazdi described the ammonia tank as "a ticking time bomb. We cannot allow for this immense danger to exist in the heart of a populated area."
The Haifa District Student Council Chairman Noy Krief added that "The ammonia tank endangers and threatens hundreds of thousands of citizens living in the Haifa district. I call on all teenagers to ask the hard questions, create a discourse, become actively involved and go and protest for the relocation of the ammonia tank."
The ammonia tank made headlines recently after a report by experts from the Technion Institute of Technology claimed that it poses a severe risk in its continued activity since it has not been properly inspected since it was built 30 years ago.
The report also claimed that "the ammonia ship that enters the Haifa Bay every four weeks is akin to a ship carrying five primed atom bombs, each more deadly than the one dropped on Hiroshima," and therefore constitutes a major security weak point.
The report determined that any leakage, resulting from either a terror attack, an earthquake (the Carmel Mountain is an active seismic area), or even an accident could create a deadly cloud of highly poisonous gas that could kill over half a million people, depending on the prevailing wind conditions.
The report was written by Prof. Ehud Keinan of the Technion Schulich Faculty of Chemistry (formerly the faculty’s dean). It has been in the hands of Haifa’s city council for over six months. The state objects to the conclusions of Keinan’s report.