Jerusalem fires released asbestos, other dangerous materials into the atmosphere

“I am working for the State of Israel to declare a climate emergency. We must define the threat,” stated Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg.

By Gil Tanenbaum, TPS

Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg visited the Rescue Forces Brigade, near the location of the fires in the Jerusalem Mountains on Monday, accompanied by Galit Cohen, director general of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Shoni Goldberger, director of the Jerusalem district at the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

According to data measured by the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s emergency drives deployed in the field, dangerously high concentrations of respirable particles levels were found in these areas. In the other zones close to the fire centers, residents were evacuated for safety reasons.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environmental Protection recommend that heart and lung patients, the elderly, children, and pregnant women avoid staying outside unnecessarily. For the rest of the population, it is recommended to reduce physical activity outside, close windows, and turn on the air conditioner.

The ministry has also reported that a number of chicken coops and warehouses with asbestos cement roofs caught fire in the areas of Ramat Raziel and Beit Meir during the fire in the Jerusalem Mountains. Officials warn the public not to enter burned coops and calls on citizens to stay away from areas that were burned as harmful chemicals may have been released into the environment.

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The area is home to some agricultural settlements.

In Ramat Raziel, a row of about 18 buildings was burned, most of them chicken coops, with asbestos roofs, as well as two warehouses containing asbestos. In Beit Meir, one coop with an asbestos roof was burned. Currently, residing in the homes adjacent to them is forbidden.

Under the direction of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Mateh Yehuda Council operated an asbestos inspection and immediate actions have already been taken to prevent the spread of asbestos fibers into the air and to demarcate the affected area. Warning signs have been placed near the hazardous area in Beit Meir.

Zandberg told the Knesset that wildfires are connected to climate change. “Because of the climate crisis, incidents of fires, extreme weather, floods and climate disasters, are going to be more frequent and more powerful in the coming years. It requires us to prepare completely differently for the impending climate disasters.”

“I am working for the State of Israel to declare a climate emergency. We must define the climate crisis as a strategic threat, which all parties must prepare for and deal with better. Because from now on it is going to get worse and worse. There is something to be done – and it must be done now,” she stated.