The Israel Navy on Sunday (4th August) hosted a large-scale multinational exercise, Mighty Waves, near the Haifa coast simulating an earthquake in which 10 foreign navies were due to take part.
The Israel Defense Forces said the drill was scheduled to end on Thursday (8th August).
The exercise focused on the aftereffects of a powerful earthquake, including the transfer of humanitarian aid, the army said. As a result, residents of northern Israel could expect to see increased helicopter flights overhead, as well as large numbers of Israeli and foreign naval vessels off the coast.
The IDF said 10 foreign fleets will participate in the exercise, but did not immediately disclose which countries were taking part. The exercise was part of its training schedule for 2019 and was aimed at improving readiness.
Israel is situated along the Syrian-African rift, a tear in the earth’s crust running the length of the border separating Israel and Jordan, and which is part of the Great Rift Valley, which extends from northern Syria to Mozambique.
The last major earthquake to hit the region was in 1927 — a 6.2-magnitude tremor that killed 500 people and injured 700.
Northern Israel and areas around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea are at high risk of a quake measuring 5 to 5.9 on the Richter scale, according to the World Health Organization, with the central and southern coastal areas and the Negev Desert at medium risk of a quake in the 4 to 4.9 range.
Experts have warned a large earthquake could strike Israel in the near future. Col. Itzik Bar from the IDF’s Home Front Command last year put expected casualties from a major quake at 7,000 dead and 200,000 homeless.
Last year the state ombudsman said Israel was woefully unprepared for a major earthquake, having failed to implement most of the recommendations outlined in numerous reports.
The report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira found that an earthquake would cause serious damage to the underwater natural gas pipeline, the fuel lines, the water mains, airports, and general transportation.
Schools, hospitals, tourist sites and public buildings are not equipped to withstand a big quake, Shapira warned.
State comptroller reports reviewing Israel’s earthquake response in 2001, 2004 and 2011 found that no funding had been allocated to reinforce older buildings and other precautionary measures, due to spats between ministries over responsibility for the work.