The idea of using the Mt. Carmel tunnels as public shelters already came up 2 years ago when they were initially opened for traffic, but now the idea is being considered as a practical solution should a war break out.
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has already approached Home Front Command and National Emergency Council officials asking to coordinate the use of the tunnels as public shelters. This is accompanied by a request from officials involved to organize adequate parking space for the thousands of cars belonging to the people who will arrive at the tunnels seeking protection.
Yahav also asked the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Transportation to declare the tunnels an essential emergency workplace, in order to prevent worker now-shows which could cause the closure of the tunnels.
The Carmel Tunnels (Minharot HaCarmel) are a set of road tunnels in and around Haifa, Israel. The tunnels’ purpose is to reduce road congestion in the Haifa area and to provide an alternative route of reaching the eastern and central parts of the city, Haifa Bay and the Krayot area to and from Israel’s central coastal plain without having to travel through traffic-congested downtown Haifa, having to drive up and across the Carmel Mountain or bypassing Haifa from the east, along the edge of the Jezreel Valley.
The tunnels cut the travel time from the Haifa South interchange in the west to the Checkpost interchange in the east from 30–50 minutes down to 6 minutes.
The tunnels were opened to traffic on December 1, 2010.
As part of the preparations for the worst case scenario, a map of the businesses in the city was recently completed by the Haifa Municipality, with the intention of ordering businesses to remain open in an emergency situation. Should the owner refuse, options are being examined for opening the businesses against their will and thereby forcing them to sell essential items. Cellular communication providers and gas stations are being targeted specifically by the municipality, to prevent their closure during an emergency situation.
Mayor Yahav told IDF Radio that since the day those tunnels have opened he had been contemplating using them as mass bomb shelters.
“I’ve been investigating for a long time the possibility of sheltering tens of thousands underground. But no one so far has been able to tell me how much oxygen would be required for, say, 30 or 40 thousand people.”
During World War 2, the bombing of London and especially the Blitz led to the use of many tube (underground train) stations as air-raid shelters. Closed stations and unfinished sections of new lines were also used. The shelters were well suited to their purpose, but some stations could still be breached by a direct hit, and, indeed, a few German attacks did result in serious loss of life, most notably at Balham and Bounds Green in October 1940 and Bank in January 1941. A still worse disaster was a crowd crush accident at the unfinished Bethnal Green in March 1943.