Israelis to blow up Dead Sea in earthquake test

A HUGE bomb is due to be detonated in the Dead Sea tomorrow to try to simulate an earthquake. The plan has alarmed environmentalists and divided Israeli government departments.

A total of 5,000kg of dynamite is scheduled to blow up in the middle of the sea, whose shores are highly popular with tourists and are overlooked by nature reserves and biblical ruins.

The detonation, between 70 metres and 100 metres beneath the surface and at least three miles offshore, is part of an effort by the Israel Geophysical Institute to improve its seismic monitoring system.

The institute has already conducted at least one smaller explosion of 500kg this week, and was yesterday due to conduct another of 2,000kg. It says its analyses show the simulated quake will be no risk to people, property or environment. As a precaution, however, tourists were ordered out of the water before the first explosion on Monday.

But that has failed to convince Israel's environmentalists, including Bilha Givon, head of an organisation for the protection of the Negev Desert, who fear the blasts could trigger a natural earthquake.

"I am very concerned," Mrs Givon said yesterday. "If you want to simulate an aircraft accident, you don't blow up the plane. This is a very seismically sensitive area." Similar concerns have been expressed by Greenpeace.

Criticism has also come from Israel's Environmental Ministry, which has expressed fears that the explosion could release radon gas from the sea, damage the shorelines and harm wildlife. A spokesman said the ministry would seek to delay Thursday's detonation if the earlier explosions were found to be damaging.

Although the sea is lifeless - its lack of fish is the reason why it was chosen - the surrounding canyons are rich in natural life, caves and ancient ruins. They include at least two nature reserves. Aptly perhaps, the area is also traditionally believed to include the site of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities destroyed by the Old Testament God, using fire and brimstone.

However, the Geophysical Institute, which has been told by Israel's National Infrastructure Ministry to find ways to reduce earthquake risk, is adamant that the contrived earthquake will not trigger a natural one.

The explosion will be "completely safe", said Avi Shapira, head of the institute's seismology department. "This is the only way to calibrate seismological instruments accurately. It will greatly improve our ability to find the locations of earthquakes in the region."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there