A new study predicts that over the next 50 years, at least one destructive tsunami will hit Israel’s coastline causing major damage, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Sunday.
In the event of an earthquake off the coast that could trigger such a massive wave, coastal residents have only 15 minutes to reach safety on higher ground.
“A Mediterranean tsunami is something quite common,” according to Dr. Beverly Goodman of the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa.
“Every 15 years there is an event defined by a tsunami. There’s not always a lot of damage, but it’s pretty common,” Goodman noted.
“Great tsunami events occur in the Mediterranean every 600 years,” Goodman explained. “The last event happened more than 600 years ago. [But] If there’s a tsunami in a month, I would not be surprised.”
At the ancient port of Caesarea, researchers are trying to predict when a tsunami will strike Israel’s coast. They collect stone fragments washed up from the depths of the sea to the beach, in order to better understand tsunami events that have already occurred in the Mediterranean.
A new study by the university found that during the last 2,000 years there were 11 significant tsunamis along the Israeli coast. In fact, the Mediterranean is in second place worldwide, in terms of the likelihood of a tsunami, according to the study.
In 2004, when a gargantuan tsunami wave hit the beaches of India, Thailand and Indonesia, more than 300,000 people died, and tens of thousands of others were injured and made homeless. The tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 killed an estimated 15,000 people and disabled nuclear reactors. An international commission recommended establishing UNESCO tsunami warning stations worldwide.
Israel already has such a monitoring station, located in the headquarters of the Israel Electric Corporation’s Hadera power station.
“The tsunami system measures the water level in real time,” according to Dov Rosen, a former senior official for the national Limnological Research Institute.
“In order to accurately spot an oncoming tsunami, the system should detect a tens of centimeters rise in the water level within minutes,” Rosen explained.
If the epicenter is far off, Israel could have up to two hours warning, officials believe.
Dr. Avi Shapira, the chairman of the government’s Steering Committee for earthquake planning is the man who will decide whether to publish a tsunami warning. In his role, Shapiro gets alerts from stations in the Middle East and within minutes would have to decide whether to warn the citizens of Israel that a potentially catastrophic tsunami is headed for the holy land.
“In the case of real alarm, one has to stay at least a mile away from the beach and get to the fourth floor, at least. For bathers on the beach, however, no such immediate alert will help,” he said.
“The Israel Police are responsible for dealing with a tsunami event,” Shapiro said. “There is a communications hookup in the lifeguard shacks with the Meteorological Service.”