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Israel launches four-day exercise to enhance earthquake response preparedness

Some 120 people from 18 countries are participating in drills simulating the reception of foreign aid in the event of a major tremor.

Israel launches a four-day international exercise, with some 120 people from 17 countries participating, simulating the reception of foreign aid in the event of a major earthquake, March 12, 2023. Credit: Israel Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office.
Israel launches a four-day international exercise, with some 120 people from 17 countries participating, simulating the reception of foreign aid in the event of a major earthquake, March 12, 2023. Credit: Israel Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office.

Israel launched a four-day international exercise on Sunday simulating the reception of foreign aid in the event of a major earthquake.

The drill will simulate all necessary emergency procedures, including the initial decision to request international assistance, integrating foreign rescue teams, receiving the aid and distributing it.

The exercise is being led by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority, in cooperation with local emergency and rescue services. Some 120 people from 18 countries are participating, including teams from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, North Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Romania, Spain and Sweden, as well as from the European Union and the United Nations.

The teams will also simulate scenarios related to search and rescue operations, evacuation drills and damage assessment processes.

“The National Emergency Management Authority designated 2023 as the year to focus on improving national earthquake preparedness, with the devastating earthquake in Turkey further emphasizing the challenges that we face,” said IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Yoram Laredo, director of the National Emergency Management Authority.

“The highly esteemed cooperation with our partners abroad is a crucial element in achieving this and enhances the State of Israel’s capacity to receive extensive humanitarian aid in emergency situations,” he added.

Turkey was struck by a pair of massive earthquakes of Feb. 6 that, together with hundreds of aftershocks, left more than 40,000 people dead in what the World Health Organization has called the region’s worst natural disaster in a century.

In response to the deadly Feb. 6 quakes, the Israel Defense Forces launched “Operation Olive Branches” to Turkey, which rescued 19 people from the rubble. The Israeli military’s 400-plus-strong delegation was supported by emergency medical specialists from the defense and health ministries, fire and rescue services, Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and Zaka, among others.

Israel has scrambled to improve its earthquake preparedness in the wake of the Turkey disaster, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directing National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi to “update and reiterate the steps we need to take.”

The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee called for an emergency meeting, and State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman urged the government not to delay, saying the wave of deadly earthquakes in the region should be viewed as a warning.

Experts have stressed that Israel’s current state of earthquake readiness is concerning. A 2018 report by the previous comptroller estimated that a major earthquake could result in 7,000 casualties and leave 170,000 people homeless. A report from last year found that 600,000 buildings in the country do not meet the standard for earthquake resistance.

Israel is located along the Great Rift Valley, an active geological fault line presenting several significant hazards for the area, including frequent minor earthquakes and the potential for more serious seismic events.

Israel had a long history of earthquakes, with a major one occurring approximately every 100 years. The last major earthquake to hit the country was in 1927. That quake, which had a magnitude of 6.2, claimed 284 lives and injured 940.

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