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Israel's chief industrial port city to use highway tunnel as mass bomb shelter

JERUSALEM, Aug. 21 — The city of Haifa intends to exploit a new 6-km-long underground traffic artery as a bomb shelter in case of missile attacks by Israel's foes.

The Carmel Tunnel, completed at the end of 2010, eases congestion by routing through traffic beneath Mt. Carmel.

Mayor Yona Yahav told Army radio on Monday that he has asked Home Front Command and National Emergency Authority officials to approve the plan, which include allocating vehicle parking for residents' cars, near the tunnel's entrances.

Yahav and emergency and disaster officials, the Times of Israel wrote, would manage the city from the 3-million-shekel subterranean emergency operations center, built in the wake of the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Haifa, Israel's third largest city and home to chemical and oil refineries, sustained heavy rocket attacks which killed dozens of residents and caused significant damage during the month-long conflict.

Yahav's announcement comes on the heels of preparations by the Tel Aviv Municipality to turn 60 subterranean parking lots into bomb shelters. The facilities are able to house up to 800,000 people in a total of 850,000 square meters, city officials said Wednesday.

The lots are mostly situated beneath shopping malls or at the city's sprawling central bus station.

The developments comes against a backdrop of increasing acute reports and analyses in the Israeli media over the prospect of an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities and the extent of possible retaliation by either Teheran or Hezbollah.

In a recent report, local Channel 10 television news quoted official sources as saying that an attack on Iran would prompt the firing of upwards of 50,000 missiles on Israel in response.

A report in July revealed that Tel Aviv was largely unprepared in case of an attack on the home front, and that the existing 241 shelters would only be able to contain up to 40,000 people — only tenth of the city's population.

Additionally, the authorities have prepared plans for evacuating central urban areas in the event of a rocket barrage in the country's densely-populated business and cultural center.

Israel is also concerned over instability in neighboring Syria and Egypt, and the potential for rocket attacks from those areas. (PNA/Xinhua)

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