Fire forces mass evac­u­a­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

A wild­fire burns in Haifa, Is­rael, yes­ter­day. HAIFA (AP): A WILD­FIRE roared through parts of Is­rael’s third-largest city yes­ter­day, forc­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple to evac­u­ate their homes and prompt­ing a rare call-up of hun­dreds of mil­i­tary re­servists to join over­stretched po­lice and fire­fight­ers.

Au­thor­i­ties spec­u­late that the blaze may have been set by po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated ar­son­ists.

Spread­ing quickly due to dry, windy weather, the fire raced through Haifa’s north­ern neigh­bour­hoods. While there were no se­ri­ous in­juries, sev­eral dozen peo­ple were hos­pi­talised for smoke in­hala­tion.

Po­lice and fire­fight­ers were de­ployed through­out the city as peo­ple loaded up su­per­mar­ket carts with be­long­ings and fled their homes. Some peo­ple con­nected hoses to­gether from apart­ment build­ings to help battle the fires, while res­i­dents held cloth over their faces.

Is­rael’s po­lice chief, Roni Al­she­ich, told re­porters that ar­son­ists were sus­pected of set­ting some of the fires and that ar­rests had been made, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

“It’s safe to as­sume that who­ever is set­ting the fires isn’t do­ing it only out of py­ro­ma­nia,” he said. “It’s safe to as­sume that if it is ar­son, it is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.”

The blaze was the largest of sev­eral fires to erupt across the coun­try in re­cent days. The rash of fires is the worst since 2010, when Is­rael suf­fered the sin­gle dead­li­est wild­fire in its history. That blaze burned out of con­trol for four days, killed 42 peo­ple, and was ex­tin­guished only af­ter fire­fight­ing air­craft ar­rived from as far away as the United States.

OTHER NA­TIONS AS­SIST­ING

Is­rael has strength­ened its fire­fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties since then, buy­ing spe­cial planes that can drop large quan­ti­ties of wa­ter on af­fected ar­eas. Sev­eral coun­tries, – in­clud­ing Rus­sia, Cyprus, Turkey, Croa­tia and Greece – were also send­ing as­sis­tance to battle this week’s blazes.

Guy Cat­lan, who runs a gas sta­tion in Haifa, told Chan­nel 10 TV that work­ers turned the power off and were help­ing fire­fight­ers to pre­vent the flames from reach­ing it.

“There is a very large quan­tity of fuel here; it is very danger­ous to the en­tire area. It could be a big catas­tro­phe,” he said.

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