Fire forces mass evacuation
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.