By: George Kurzom
Effects of the 1927 earthquake in Nablus, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
The question is not whether the earthquake will happen or not, but when will it happen.
Usually, a series of small earthquakes precede a large earthquake. However, we cannot predict when the devastating earthquake will occur.
The statistical history of earthquakes in our region indicates that the average time between two devastating earthquakes (with fatal injuries) is about a hundred years.
The turning period after a devastating earthquake may last a few months or a year and may even last more than two hundred years.
Geologically, Palestine in general, and the area that was hit by the recent earthquakes in particular, lies at the junction of two plates of the earth’s crust, specifically in the geological fracture area known as the Syrian-African rift, which is a rocky layer in which displacements or fractures have occurred, especially in the Dead Sea area. Therefore, Palestine is vulnerable, with a high probability, to a devastating earthquake. Since this fault is seismically active, strong earthquakes have occurred and may occur along about a thousand kilometers of the fault.
The Syrian-African rift extends from the Gulf of Umm al-Rashrash (the Red Sea) through the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee to southern Turkey.
In the past, the Palestinian part of the rift was hit by several strong earthquakes, including the great earthquake that occurred in 749 AD, which caused massive destruction in the cities of Tiberias, Bisan, and Jericho, and in the sixteenth-century thousands were killed in another devastating earthquake in Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus , and Ramleh.
The earthquake of 1837 destroyed Tiberias and Safed and caused thousands of deaths.
The latest significant earthquake in our region occurred in 1995 in the Gulf of Aqaba (Umm Al-Rashrash / "Eilat" region). The earthquake at that time reached 7.2 on the Richter scale. The damage was minor, given that the epicenter of the earthquake is relatively far, about 70 km south of Umm al-Rashrash (Eilat).
Scientists have not yet been able to find a way to accurately predict an earthquake. A few years ago, hot warnings of the possibility of an impending earthquake in Palestine have been repeated, and such an earthquake is expected to occur at every moment.
According to the study of the statistical data of the earthquakes that occurred in Palestine in the last thousand years, which was conducted by Afaq Environmental magazine about eleven years ago and based on many geophysical and geological references, a preliminary scenario for the earth tremors expected to occur in the future has been formed. According to the statistical study, it is expected that serious geological tremors will occur in Palestine in the coming years or decades.
The successive light tremors that Palestine has experienced since 2004 indicate a high probability of the region being exposed to a major earthquake. It is expected that the strength of earthquakes in our region will not exceed 7 degrees, especially if the epicenter of the earthquake is in the Tiberias or the Galilee.
There is a possibility that the earthquake will occur in the sea, off the Palestinian coast, perhaps at a distance of a few kilometers from the beaches of Jaffa, Gaza or Haifa, and in this case the earthquake may be followed by strong tsunami waves that may drown all those near the shore, and the damage caused within a few seconds may be horrific.
Science vs Rumors
Although Early-warning alerts are typically delivered within a few seconds at best, from time-to-time panic spreads among the people due to fabricated rumors that within hours or days a major earthquake will strike Palestine.
Although there is no effective means, so far, to warn us of the imminence of an earthquake, and thus to prevent it. There are ways to eliminate the effects of the disaster, by taking the necessary measures, before, during and after the earthquake.
The measure should be taken at all levels, starting with the citizens through the experts to the political officials and decision-makers.
There are ways to reduce the damage caused by earthquakes, so that the massive devastation that may be left behind will be greatly reduced, knowing that the earthquake in itself does not kill, but what kills is the destruction of buildings and facilities and the fires resulting from it.
As expected, occupants of buildings constructed to earthquake-resistant specifications will not suffer casualties, even in the event of major earthquakes.
Recently, some scientists are trying to provide effective solutions to strengthen buildings against earthquakes. One of the most common recommendations proposed is adding walls.
Repairing of buildings using special fiber composite materials, monitoring the masses of dynamic objects and weights inside buildings and strengthening buildings using steel cables or bars, etc.
In fact, all buildings that do not conform to specifications must be strengthened with appropriate additions, by adding shear walls to them, or by filling the voids in the ground floors with concrete.
According to the priorities, it is assumed to address public and governmental buildings and facilities, bridges, hospitals, educational institutions, schools, communications, etc. As these buildings and facilities must be operational during and after the earthquake, to provide the necessary assistance.
The relevant agencies, civil defense, rescue and emergency teams, the ministries of environment and health, and others, must take into account a long list of preventive preparations, including: instructions for mass graves to prevent the spread of epidemics, removal of animal carcasses, and the removal of waste and remnants of many facilities and buildings that will collapse.
All concerned and involved parties like the civil defense, rescue and emergency teams, the ministries of environment and health, and others, must take into account a long list of preventive preparations. Preventive preps should include: instructions for mass graves to prevent the spread of epidemics, removal of animal carcasses, and the removal of waste and remnants of many facilities and buildings that will collapse.
One of the possible options is to dispose of this waste by dumping it in the sea, as well as the rapid and emergency treatment of wastewater networks that may break.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh