Series of small earthquakes in Israel prompts concern over disaster preparedness

Five moderate earthquakes rattled northern Israel this week, causing no major damage but prompting increased concern over the Jewish state's preparedness for a much larger disaster.

Israel sits on the junction of the African and Arabian tectonic plates, and it is prone to small tremors. This week's cluster registered between magnitude 3 and 4.

Two quakes in the 11th century caused widespread destruction, and one in 1837 estimated at magnitude 7 killed more than 6,000 people.

"But we don't know yet when the next catastrophe will come," said Amotz Agnon, a professor of geology and geophysics at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a special meeting to discuss disaster preparedness and a series of radio and TV spots were launched to instruct Israelis about what to do in case of a large earthquake.

A government website suggested holding earthquake drills, stockpiling food and water, and preparing an emergency kit with medical supplies, flashlights and batteries.

David Alosh, 55, called the series of quakes "very scary."

One area of concern is whether buildings constructed before 1980 can withstand an earthquake.

"A big chunk of Tel Aviv has buildings from the '50s," Agnon said.

He added that many have parking facilities constructed beneath them, "and they will collapse. You don't need a huge earthquake for this."

The terrain around the Sea of Galilee is largely underdeveloped, with Tiberias the main town on its shores. It has been the site of a settlement for thousands of years.

While houses have spread on hillsides overlooking the town, Tiberias itself has few modern, high-rise buildings. Flooding in the 1930s triggered landslides on deforested slopes nearby and washed away many structures during a period when the British ruled the area.


Associated Press writer Daniela Berretta in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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