Israel struggles to contain deadliest fire on record anywhere in at least 10 years

AFP & Reuters, Friday 3 Dec 2010

Israel wildfires
AP: Flames approach houses in kibbutz Beit Oren in northern Israel, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. A massive forest fire that scorched part of northern Israel killed scores of people Thursday, officials said. Fire officials said the blaze, which torched some 800 acres (325 hectares), remained out of control as nightfall arrived.

A forest fire that was raging on Friday near Israel's northern city of Haifa was set to be one of the deadliest on record anywhere in at least 10 years.

Assistance was to arrive from several other states during the day as Israel struggled to contain the largest blaze in its history that showed major shortcomings in the emergency services.

"The fires are still not under control and the strong winds are making things worse," the chief of Israel's fire service, Shimon Romah, told Israel Radio.
Fire crews from across Israel were mobilised on Thursday to combat the fire, which was believed to have started in an illegal garbage dump. But they did not have the resources, especially water tanker planes, needed to tame the inferno.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he visited the scene that Israel had suffered a "disaster on a scale we have never seen before".

International help arrived from Bulgaria, Jordan, Greece and Britain. Cypriot, Turkish and Russian planes also were en route, while flame retardant materials were being flown in from France, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. "The Russians are sending and we are waiting for the biggest firefighting plane in the world ... an Antonov with huge firefighting capacity," he told Israel Radio.

"Most of the planes will arrive by lunchtime. It is very difficult for the fire appliances to fight the flames, I hope that we will be able to control the flames by tomorrow (Saturday) evening," he added.


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