Emergency services have come under fire on Sunday for taking too long to respond to a call of a flooded building in Tel Aviv, in which two 25-year-olds drowned to death after getting trapped in a flooded underground parking lot elevator.
The families of victims, Dean Shoshani and Stav Harari, struggled to believe the tragedy that had befallen them, pointing an accusing finger at the emergency services.
"How come it took the rescue teams so long to get there? How does such a building even get permits?" said the families. "How could it be that no one has contacted the families yet? No one from the municipality and the police will tell us what happened.
"The infrastructure in the neighborhood has been neglected for years and the municipality is indifferent to the neighborhood's residents. This is criminal negligence."
One of the building's tenants presented on Sunday call logs to emergency services as the flooding began in the parking lot, showing he had contacted them multiple times throughout an elongated period of time.
"I called the police at 12:26, but no one answered. I tried calling the police again, but they didn’t answer again," said the tenant. "I called the fire brigade twice at 12:33, but they also didn't answer. They did answer me once, but I was referred to the municipal emergency service (106), instead. The municipal emergency service just hung up on me and did not answer."
"One of the firemen answered me and told me to turn to 106. I told him the street was flooded and was turning into a life-threatening hazard. He referred me to 106 to come and pump out the water. I didn't get any response from 106. I called the police, at this point I already figured there were people trapped in the elevator and I got an answer only on the third try."
Alfred Jadid, one of the building’s owners, told his account of the story, also blaming emergency services for taking too long to arrive.
"I got a call about 20 minutes after the two got trapped. When I arrived, the water had already reached the ceiling. I started going crazy, we tried opening the elevator doors, but to no avail."
The other tenants and I had called firefighters perhaps a hundred times after hearing noise from inside the elevator, but they just never showed up. I went in person to the fire station, but they were not prepared for this kind of situation and did not want to come in the beginning. I told them there were people trapped in there and we could hear banging on the doors and people screaming for help."
"Police only arrived about an hour later, but how would that help? The fire brigade arrived there after an hour and a half. The water reached more than seven feet. We tried to pry the elevator door open using crowbars but did not succeed. The elevator technician told us he didn't have the right equipment for the job and just left the place.
"All these floods are caused by the drainage system's failure. We have floods around here all the time. All the time," said Jadid.
A senior police official rejected claims of multiple phone calls and said that the emergency hotline had received only one phone call reporting a flood at the address.
Rescue teams pumped the water out of the parking lot for hours, revealing great damages to the facility and the cars in it.