Scores die as fire­men bat­tle Is­raeli blaze

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

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

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