Tel Aviv baffled by mysterious hot steam emerging from ground

Authorities allowed residents back into two buildings, but were unable to find the mysterious source of steam emerging from the ground.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Tel Aviv Municipality employees and other authorities remain baffled after trying for three days to find the mysterious source of underground heat that is causing steam to emerge from the ground between two apartment buildings in the center of the city, Kan News reported Sunday.

On Thursday, residents were evacuated from two apartment buildings on busy Ibn Gvirol Street following reports of hot steam emerging from the ground between the buildings.

Municipality workers dug down, but were unable to find the source of heat that was producing the steam. The city called in the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Energy, the electric company, the fire department and geology experts, but have so far been unable to find the source of the steam and with no toxic gases or signs of an erupting volcano, the residents were allowed back into their apartments.

Initially, there was concern that this was a leak of hazardous material from an underground reservoir, but this possibility was ruled out after an inspection by firefighters, the report said.

“A mystery,” said Tel Aviv City Council member Zippy Brand. “The earth is boiling beneath the city,” she posted on her Facebook page, adding that “for three days now, a smoking cistern has been raising steam at a temperature of 60 degrees [celsius, 140 degrees Fahrenheit].”

“We already know what it is not,” Brand said. “It’s not oil … I’ve been hoping for a moment that there’s oil in our city,” she added jokingly.

“There is no fear for anyone … Slowly it is becoming a tourist site,” Brand said, asking followers on her Facebook page to help solve the mystery.

“What a coincidence, we were just watching Ghostbusters 2, where there is a thick and disgusting pink slime that makes people nervous and disgusting to each other and feeds on intense, positive and negative emotions. Maybe you should call Ghostbusters,” posted Jenny Donner Konigsberg.

Another social media user speculated it would turn into a geyser, another thought it could be a volcano, while a third was sure it was one the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles getting hungry for pizza under Tel Aviv.

Experts said that the heat is coming from some source of energy in the ground, but for now it was not yet possible to determine what the exact source is and there is no immediate danger to the stability of the buildings.

There are several geothermal hot springs in Israel where underground water is heated in the earth and rises to the surface. The closest hot springs are some 10 kilometers (six miles) to the north at Kibbutz Ga’ash, whose name can also mean “volcano” in English.