Israeli officials and NGO directors warned on Wednesday that the tragedy of the Port of Beirut could happen in Haifa which hosts huge silos of dangerous petrochemicals, Israel Hayom reported.
“The event in Lebanon illustrates the danger of having concentrations of hazardous materials near a dense population centre, and underscores the urgent need to close the flammable, volatile industries,” Dr Revital Goldschmidt of the Environmental Research Center in Haifa explained.
Speaking to Israel Hayom, Goldschmidt added: “People claim that what exploded [in Beirut] was ammonium nitrate. The ammonium storage facility [in Haifa] has been emptied, but Haifa Bay is still at risk from ammonia, with the tankers carrying it docked not far from the population.”
Dr Goldschmidt also noted that there is a: “Fertiliser factory that manufactures fertilisers and explosives in the middle of the city, which have 15-tonne holding vats that are unprotected.”
Dr Goldschmidt concluded her speech stating: “We call on the government to submit a plan to close these dangerous factories to the cabinet, urgently,” noting that Israel is not prepared to handle a mass casualty event of the magnitude that would result from an explosion at the Haifa facilities.
Meanwhile, attorney Jameela Hardal Wakim, director of the Citizens for the Environment non-profit organisation, added: “What happened in Beirut could happen in Haifa Bay, as well, or in Ashdod, or anywhere else where there are large stores of hazardous material.”
“According to the latest risk assessment, there are 1,500 risk points and 800 hazardous materials in Haifa Bay, and we also know that the necessary safety measures have not been taken,” Hardal Wakim clarified.
Concurrently, Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem asserted: “For years, even before I was elected mayor, I have led a fight to stop the expansion of the polluting industries at Haifa Bay. Today, it’s clear to us all that it isn’t enough to stop them from growing – they also need to leave.”
“Our concern, which is based on experts in the field, is about the exact scenario that took place to the north of Israel yesterday [Tuesday],” according to Kalisch-Rotem.