Israel battles huge forest fire/ PHOTO

More than 17,000 people have been evacuated to escape the largest fire in Israel's history, as planes from abroad have joined in the battle

Israel battles huge forest fire/ PHOTO

Israel struggled on Saturday to contain a huge forest fire that has killed 42 people and raged on for a third day near the port city of Haifa.

More than 17,000 people have been evacuated to escape the largest fire in Israel's history. About 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of drought-stricken woodland and many houses were destroyed by the blaze.

Foreign firefighter aircraft have joined in the battle to contain the fire, dumping water on flames consuming the mountainside Carmel ridge where the fire was focused.


Officials said, however, there were few signs that the blaze was being brought under control.

Planes from abroad fighting flames

Police said initial findings showed the fire was caused by negligence. Some officials said they could not rule out arson.

"It looks as though this is the result of negligence," Roni Atiya, a regional police commander, told reporters in Haifa, adding that it may have been caused by a campfire.

Mickey Rosenfeld, a spokesman for national police, said it would take time to make final conclusions and that all causes were under investigation.


Planes from France and the United States were expected later on Saturday to supplement Israel's own short supply of fire-fighting aircraft. Russian planes started dumping water on Saturday morning.

Planes from Greece, Turkey and Cyprus went into action dumping water on the flames on Friday. A number of other countries have sent in supplies such as flame retardant, fire trucks and crews, including Jordan and Egypt.

Campaign for assistance

"It is clear that the battle to stop this fire will be decided from the air," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that said he is seeking further international aid to quench the blaze.

Yet, fire-fighters have not been able to gain control over the fire by Saturday morning, Rosenfeld said.


Several families were evacuated from homes where the fires spread overnight, he said, adding "it may take another day or two to take control".

Police have ordered the evacuation of 17,000 people from the Carmel area, forcibly removing some locals who refused to leave their property.

"Turkey help"

Turkey has sent two fire fighting airplanes to Israel after a fire erupted in Haifa city on Thursday.

Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone on Friday, and said that he called to convey his appreciation to Turkey for sending the planes.


The assistance of Turkey was very big and meaningful, Netanyahu told Erdogan.

Erdogan also expressed sorrow over death of 41 Israeli citizens during the fire, and he offered condolences to Israel.

Erdogan said that Turkey was ready to help injured people too.


Most of the 42 killed on Thursday were trainee Israeli prison officers on a bus engulfed by flames as they headed towards a prison to help evacuate 500 inmates. Another 26 people have suffered burn injuries, Magen David Adom paramedics said.

The fires have triggered public demands for an official investigation and many are angry that so many lives were lost in a country that spends billions of dollars a year on weaponry but significantly less on its emergency services.

Atiya, the police commander, said the camp fire suspected to have caused the blaze was set by a family, now under investigation.



Last Mod: 04 Aralık 2010, 13:39
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