Wild­fire en­gulfs hills, killing 42 in north­ern Is­rael

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

TI­RAT CARMEL: A ma­jor for­est fire killed at least 40 peo­ple in north­ern Is­rael, in­clud­ing prison guard cadets trapped in a bus while head­ing to evac­u­ate in­mates, of­fi­cials said.

Hun­dreds of fire­men, scores of fire trucks and air force wa­ter can­non rushed to the scene in the Carmel hills above the Mediter­ranean port of Haifa to bat­tle the blaze which raged in strong winds, de­vour­ing the wooded slopes.

More than 12,000 peo­ple were evac­u­ated from towns and vil­lages as the fires threat­ened hill­side homes. Fire­fight­ers said it was the biggest for­est fire in the coun­try's his­tory, with some 7,000 acres of land de­stroyed.

A col­lec­tive farm in the for­est, Kib­butz Beit Oren, was razed. A gut­ted bus and car that car­ried the prison guards were all that was left of their prison evac­u­a­tion mis­sion.

Is­raeli Prime

Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said on a visit to the scene by heli­copter Is­rael had suf­fered a "dis­as­ter on a scale we have never seen be­fore."

"We are har­ness­ing all the forces of the state to deal with this dis­as­ter and res­cue those who are in­jured and to stop the fire," he added.

Pa­tients were rushed out of a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal on the hill­side at Tarit Carmel, as sparks flew through the air, ig­nit­ing trees and tin­der-dry brush on the slope above its roofs. While Europe freezes in an early win­ter, Is­rael has had un­sea­son­ably hot weather in its dri­est Novem­ber in 60 years.

Ne­tanyahu called an ex­tra­or­di­nary ses­sion of his se­cu­rity cabi­net be­fore the week­end to de­cide fur­ther steps and de­clared a day of mourn­ing for the ca­su­al­ties.

Turkey, de­spite its strained ties with Is­rael, was one of eight coun­tries send­ing air­craft and flame re­tar­dants to help fight the flames, Is­raeli of­fi­cials said.

Ti­rat Carmel, near Haifa, was one a dozen towns par­tially evac­u­ated. Po­lice of­fi­cers blared or­ders through mega­phones for res­i­dents to leave as smoke en­gulfed the town and spread in great bil­lows above the glow­ing orange heart of the fire. "There are a lot of ca­su­al­ties. We are talk­ing of about 40 peo­ple," said Po­lice Min­is­ter Yitzhak Aharonovitch, adding that a hand­ful of peo­ple were missing in ad­di­tion to those known to have been killed.

"What is hap­pen­ing here be­hind us is there's a fire that is blaz­ing out of con­trol, mov­ing to­ward the west ... It is an enor­mous dis­as­ter," Aharonovitch added. Micky Rosen­feld, a spokesman for na­tional po­lice, said two po­lice of­fi­cers were missing and a se­nior com­man­der of the Haifa force had been crit­i­cally in­jured. -Reuters

MOSCOW: Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev, right, lis­tens to Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Silvio Ber­lus­coni at the Rus­sian Black sea re­sort of Sochi on Fri­day, Dec. 3, 2010. -Ap

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