Scores die as firemen battle Israeli blaze
HAIFA: Thousands of Israeli rescuers and firemen backed by fire crews from around the globe battled yesterday to conquer the biggest infer no in Israel’s history, which has already killed 41 people.
As high winds drove the blaze towards Haifa, the police and medics said they had found 41 bodies, adding that they were still searching and the death toll could rise. The police said another 17 people had been injured, including three who were in serious condition and one who was critical. Four people were still missing.
By nightfall yesterday more than 17 000 people had been evacuated from their homes and the fire had incinerated more than 4 000ha of land, with the flames reaching the southern outskirts of Haifa.
Chezi Levy, spokesman for the Haifa fire service, said the flames were being brought under control in some areas.
But Israeli police chief Dudi Cohen said the fire was still a for midable force. “At this moment it cannot be said that the fire is under control. I really hope that the fire will be under control by tomorrow evening but we still have a lot to do.”
Most of those killed in the blaze were prison guards on board a bus, who had been trying to evacuate inmates from a facility in the forest. “The bus tried to turn around and some tried to get away but they were caught by the fire from two directions,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Firefighter Albert Munis said firefighters were being drafted from across Israel. The inferno taxed Israel’s meagre firefighting resources, with only 1 500 firefighters available across the entire country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said international help was crucial. Aid poured in, with 16 countries offering assistance. Yesterday afternoon another fire broke out west of Haifa, but it was quickly extinguished and police arrested two people on suspicion of arson. – Sapa-AFP