Yesterday Beirut tomorrow Haifa Bay

Haifa Photo: Tamar Matsafi

With 800 hazardous materials stored in Haifa Bay, concerns are raised that Israel could see a similar catastrophe to Beirut.

The circumstances surrounding the catastrophic explosion in Beirut on Tuesday are still unclear but it seems like thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate were not stored properly. Others believe that a chain reaction began with a fire in a fuel storage facility.

While the Lebanese capital looks like a war zone, residents of Haifa Bay to the south are wondering whether they could suffer a similar fate. For many years experts have been warning that the large amounts of hazardous materials stored in Haifa Bay, where hundreds of thousands of people live, could lead to a tragedy of calamitous proportions.

Dr. Revital Goldschmidt of the Environmental Research Center in Haifa said, "On Tuesday we sat at home in the evening and heard the explosions in Beirut just 200 kilometers from us as the crow flies, and we were given a chilling illustration of the horrific scenario that could easily happen here."

She added, "The residents of Haifa Bay are living on a barrel of explosives. Government reports have determined that there is a definite risk because of the concentration of industries with inflammble and explosive materials near the population centers of Haifa. We call on the Israeli government to make an urgent decision to remove the dangerous industries from the bay."

A year ago the Ministry for Environmental Protection published for public comments a survey of the dangers present in Haifa Bay. According to the survey, there are 1,500 dangerous points in Haifa Bay where 800 hazardous materials are stored. The survey's conclusions after receiving public remarks have yet to be published.

"The regrettable incident in Beirut Port exposes the big dangers trhat exist in storing hazardous materials in a port," says Prof. Adi Wolfson of the Sami Shamoon College of Engineering in Beersheva. "There is no doubt that the more storage facilities and industrial plants that are concentrated in one place, as in Haifa Bay or the northern industrial zone of Ashdod, then the potential for a hazardous materials event following an accident, sabotage or attack is great. Thus the destruction that took place in Beirut requires the State to immediately prepare an examination of all the existing dangers in these regions and to act immediately to reduce them."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 5, 2020 © Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Haifa Photo: Tamar Matsafi
Haifa Photo: Tamar Matsafi
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