A 3.3-magnitude earthquake rattled the Sea of Galilee region in northern Israel on Tuesday morning. It was the fifth earthquake to strike northern Israel in the past week.
On Sunday, two 3.6-magnitude quakes shook the Sea of Galilee region, just four hours apart. The Geophysical Institute of Israel said that the epicenters of the two earthquakes were on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. The tremors were felt most strongly in Tiberias, Hazor, Safed and the village of Majar. Residents of the Golan Heights reported that the second earthquake was felt there as well.
Two other earthquakes hit the same area on Thursday and Friday.
According to the Geophysical Institute of Israel, it is impossible to tell whether the series of small earthquakes indicates a stronger earthquake will take place in the near future.
“The sequence of earthquakes does not indicate anything about the future,” said institute Director Dr. Uri Frieslander. “We can’t rule out a stronger earthquake, but it is certainly possible that these small quakes will not lead to anything. Small quakes have preceded a strong earthquake in the past, but in the same vein, there were incidents in which that did not happen.”
In light of the recent string of earthquakes, Tiberias and Safed have announced they will hold earthquake exercises. Also, the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion announced on Monday that it will host a drill in three hours that will test the readiness of national emergency services for a major earthquake.
The Israel Defense Forces Homefront Command has updated its directives for the public, primarily emphasizing that during a quake it is preferable to leave buildings and get into an open space, as opposed to a missile strike, when the opposite is advised. If quickly getting to an open space is impossible, the next best option is to seek shelter in a fortified room or in the stairwell. The Homefront Command also told the public that during a quake the coast should be avoided by at least 1 kilometer, due to concerns over large waves, or to climb to at least the fourth floor of a building.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on Home Front Preparedness chairman MK Eli Yishai (Shas) said, “The wave of earthquakes hitting our region obligates us to conduct a comprehensive examination of the state and homefront’s readiness for any possible scenario that could arise as a result of an earthquake. We cannot and must not ignore from this phenomenon that is hitting us with increased strength recently.
“Moreover, I have called for a special meeting of the committee for the beginning of next week, to examine the country’s readiness, to highlight deficiencies if they exist and demand that they be fixed as soon as possible. It is our obligation to consider any possibility and not be caught complacent.”
The committee will meet to discuss the issue next Monday.
Gadi Ofer, the chief engineer for the Better Housing Association, said data for apartment buildings in Israel showed that some 60 percent would not withstand a strong earthquake. However, this figure is not accurate, and may be even higher because it disregards over 400,000 structures build prior to the legislated implementation of construction standards meant to protect against earthquakes.
“I am not certain how much we can trust buildings that were constructed even after the implementation of the earthquake standard, because these buildings plans were not professionally tested — for objective reasons — and only settled for a signed declaration by the building planner to that effect,” Ofer warned.
Better Housing Association CEO Reuven Tzadok, meanwhile, sought to alleviate concerns.
“Earthquakes cannot be prevented,” he said, “but it is possible to prepare for them and therefore minimize the damage they cause. Since it is impossible to predict the date and time of earthquakes, it is advisable to be prepared for them at all times.
“Being prepared, first and foremost, means making sure the building we live and work in can withstand an earthquake. In Israel there is a special statute (413) from 1980, which tells the engineer how he must plan the various elements of a building so that it can endure the forces created during a strong ground shift. The statute defines the minimum requirements for preventing the loss of life, but for preventing property damage. We encourage the private housing committees to make use of our engineering consultation service or consult with the center’s main office.