Israel — 40 dead as huge brushfire rages through Carmel Mountains Firefighters: We lost all control of the fire; Netanyahu turns to allies for help; bus evacuating some 50 prison guards gets caught in the flames, killing 40.
A huge brushfire was raging across the Carmel Mountains near Haifa on Thursday afternoon, resulting in the death of some 40 people and hurting dozens of others, among them prison guards and firemen.
Firefighting crews were still battling with the flames into the evening hours and expressed no hope of controlling the fire soon.
“We lost all control of the fire,” said the Haifa firefighting services spokesman on Thursday. “There aren’t enough firefighting resources in Israel in order to put out the fire,” he said.
The 40 individuals who died were students in the Prison Service’s prison guard course who were being brought to the Damon Prison to aid in evacuating the prisoners there.
According to an initial investigation of the events, a tree fell down in the middle of the road the bus was taking, trapping the bus between the flames. As a result, 40 of the 50 prison guards who were on the bus died from the flames. Seven individuals were evacuated from the scene in serious condition and transferred to Haifa hospitals.
Firefighting forces have been working without success on putting out the flames since the afternoon hours on Thursday, trying to battle the massive blaze which has already burned down at least 7,000 dunams of natural forest.
Magen David Adom Director General Eli Bin defined the fire as “the worst disaster in Israel’s history.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday requested the help of the U.S., as well as Greece, Italy, Russia, and Cyprus to send additional forces to aid in putting out the huge brushfire that was still raging in northern Israel.
Netanyahu said of the tragic fire, “We are recruiting all of the country’s resources to stop the fire and take care of the wounded. I spoke with Public Security Minister Aharonovitch and asked the police to make every effort, and from the Defense Minister to put the whole IDF at our disposal,” Netanyahu said.
“This is a difficult hour, and we will need to learn lessons for the future, but at this moment, our only thoughts are to save lives and protect the forces that are dealing with this catastrophe,” Netanyahu added. “I believe they are doing an outstanding job.”
“Today, our hearts are in Haifa, with the firefighters that with incredible courage are battling the flames; some of them have even been injured, along with residents of the area.” said President Shimon Peres. “We are praying for a miracle. We are praying for their safety. We are praying for the fire to end.”
A large force of rescue workers were initially called to the scene to evacuate hundreds of homes and close off traffic on neighboring roads, and the power supply was cut off in the areas of Isfiyeh and Daliyat al-Karmel.
The villages of Isfiyeh and Beit Oron were evacuated in the early afternoon, as was the neighboring Carmel Forest Hotel and Carmel Farm, as easterly wind blew the flames across the mountain rage. “This large fire has spread due to strong winds,” Haifa District Police Deputy Superintendent Ahuva Mishne told Israel Radio. “The winds are blowing in the direction of the sea, so there is no real concern for the [nearby] villages.”