JERUSALEM (Dec. 23)
Thousands upon thousands of Israeli men, women and youth today labored to repair some of the damage caused by more than a week of torrential rains, howling wind and raging flood in all parts of the country. At the same time, preparations were being hurried to hold back new floods that are expected with the resumption of rains forecast for late today.
Although the rains let up in various parts of the country last night and this morning, flood water still making its way down from the mountains is endangering many settlements which have so far been spared. The government has officially called on all parts of the population not to relax their efforts to aid the disaster victims and to prepare defenses against new trouble.
The Israeli Cabinet’s major agenda item today was consideration of the flood situation. Premier David Ben Gurion, following lengthy meetings with government and Jewish Agency officials, yesterday gave the go-ahead signal for the construction of temporary wooden housing for evacuees from immigrant work villages and agricultural settlements. This was in addition to the opening of the schools and other public buildings to receive thousands of men, women and children.
CHANUKAH RECESS CANCELLED; TEACHERS, STUDENTS AID VICTIMS
Praise for the spirit shown by the Israeli people in this emergency situation was voiced by many government and national leaders, including Tel Aviv’s Mayor Israel Rokach who pointed out that despite an acute clothing shortage residents of the city responded to a call for warm clothing by donating thousands of blankets, coats, sweaters, shoes and underwear for relief purposes.
With the permission of the Chief Rabbinate thousands of civilian volunteers left their homes on the Sabbath yesterday to help put the Maabarot back into shape. While women’s groups organized soup kitchens, men and boys dug and hammered as mud was removed and damaged housing was repaired or new shelters constructed.
Co-operating to the fullest extent were the army, local municipal councils, scouting organizations and women’s groups. Notable among the latter were the Working Women’s Council, WIZO and the General Zionist women’s organization. They were joined by teachers and older students whose Chanukah recess was cancelled so that they could assist. As of yesterday at least 5,000 children had been evacuated from immigrant camps, in addition to many homeless family units, but in the intervening 24 hours additional hundreds of persons have been rescued from camps and settlements which were no longer habitable. As of yesterday it was known that 29 of the 163 Maabarot had been severely damaged by the storms.
In line with the Premier’s orders for emergency relief, the Ministry of Education has been given full power to make all schools available to evacuees, while the Ministry of Trade and Industry has been authorized to issue food rations to the disaster victims. Communications services were also ordered to give top priority to relief needs.
FLOOD VICTIMS IN NORTH SEEK SHELTER IN HILLS
Road transport into Tel Aviv was brought to a virtual standstill this week-end by flood waters which submerged highways and washed out bridges. Roads linking Tel Aviv and nearby Petach Tikvah were impassable. Service on the railway line was brought to a halt as flood waters from the hills covered the rail lines. Even telephone communications were disrupted by the storm and most lines linking Tel Aviv with other centers were not functioning.
The Muszara wadi, converted into a raging torrent by flood waters, overflowed and covered the Hatikvah quarter of Tel Aviv. Its inhabitants were evacuated to other sections of the city for temporary shelter. Tel Aviv’s buses were taken off their regular runs to be used to evacuate the Hatikvah quarter residents and others. Boats from Tel Aviv port were sent along the coast to pick up stranded families in isolated settlements.
In northern Israel, the settlement of Nahariya, which had been flooded in the first days of the heavy gale which swept the country, was flooded again and its inhabitants were forced to seek shelter in the hills. Planes of the Israeli airforce are making regular sweeps over the country to observe and report conditions. Cargo planes and Piper Cubs are being sent to drop food to isolated settlements.
The Israeli Army, which has taken over relief and rescue operations in the Maabarot, the immigrant work camps, cancelled all leaves in a number of army units and ordered personnel to stand by for emergencies. All firemen, police and first aid reservists have been alerted for rescue operations. The army reported that evacuation of imperilled immigrant camps had been almost completed.