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Friday, February 19, 2010

Earthquake Fears in Tel-Aviv

The recent quake in Haiti has set off alarm bells here in Israel. Historically Israel gets an earthquake every century and the last one was in 1927 so our due date is coming up.  The first result was  that all the school children in the country practised getting under their tables.  No doubt that will really make a difference should anything happen.

The good news is that most earthquakes happen along the Dead Sea's "rift valley" which is, of course, the lowest point on earth (one would expect it to be earthquake prone) and most of us live along the coast on the other side of the country. The bad news is that  Ramle which is 30 kilometers from Tel-Aviv gets devastated every 500 years or so, although it must be said that they aren't due for a devastation for another four hundred years. To be honest, with the exception of the Tomb of St. George (in nearby Lod), most of Ramle would benefit from a major rebuilding.

To encourage buildings to get earthquake protection the government is promoting a program where older blocks of flats can add a floor free of charge if they add reinforced rooms (against bombs and chemical weapons) to the building.  The policy used to be that each building had a communal bomb shelter in the basement but since the 1991 Gulf War they  want everyone to have a personal room made of reinforced concrete which can be sealed off from chemical weapon attacks. We Jews always expect the worst. I recently took my son to the doctor and said "doctor! there's something wrong with him, he's never ill!" (I'm afraid this story is true).
Here in Tel-Aviv what that means is that various builders offer to give you an extra (reinforced) room in return for you letting them build (and sell) apartments on the roof. The reinforced rooms are also designed (I assume) to keep the building upright in the event of an earthquake. 

Well for those of us who, like me, live in a block of (Tel-Aviv) flats built in the fifties that's good news. We have builders offering us an extra room, a lift and a full building facelift in return for the roof.  My guess is that at the end the building will simply collapse under the extra weight without need for any added earthquakes.  Oh and the pipes will all block up. Yes I'm always optimistic.

So now we in the building have to decide.  We have been shown a draft contract but there are catches.  They want every apartment owner to sign the contract and one bloke has gone AWOL in Los Angeles and can't be found.  We (the flat owners) have to meet and discuss the proposals and some of the tenants here are better suited to life in a zoo.  Though I suspect they would put the chimps off their tea if they did move to the zoo.

The biggest catch of all, is that I am the building's "house maintenance sucker volunteer" and have to call everyone and get them to appear for meetings, not to mention collecting money for communal maintenance costs.  Still if it does actually happen, and I do manage to trace a man by the odd name of Hoshung Darby in LA (he sounds like a South Korean moped) then the value of my apartment might rise by quite a bit. 





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