Israel — Israel received more firefighting aircraft from abroad Saturday morning in an attempt to control the massive bushfire in the north of the country which has killed at least 41 people.
Two huge Russian planes capable of dumping at least 42 tonnes of water arrived in Israel and were already in the air – together with six other international aircraft from France, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, Israeli fire services said.
So far, according to the police, the number of fatalities is 41, while Israeli Radio reported 43 deaths including two police officers and a 16-year-old volunteer.
Officials late Friday said that the fire had destroyed more than 3,400 hectares of land, devoured over 4 million trees, and forced 17,000 people to flee their homes.
“The international support that we are receiving, that is impressive, could help us to extinguish the fire Saturday night”, Yoram Levy, spokesman of the Israeli fire services said to dpa.
Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld added that changes in the wind, temperatures and other factors could extend the works to bring the fire under control between 24 and 48 hours.
International planes have been working together with at least 10 Israeli aircraft since 6 AM (0400GMT).
The blaze is concentrated between the village of Beit Oren and a major road linking Haifa with Tel Aviv to the south, as well as between the village of Usafiya and the village of Nir Etzion.
The dead teenager, identified as Elad Rebin, was trying to rescue prison service cadets whose bus had been trapped in the inferno Thursday night. Some 36 cadets on the bus were burned to death. The other dead were police officers, firemen, and a civilian.
Four Border Guard police officers were lightly hurt by smoke inhalation Satruday morning after being trapped near the northern community of Ein Hod. Four of them remain in hospital.
Some two days after the fire first began on the drought-stricken, heavily-forested Carmel hill, south-east of the city of Haifa, it is still defying efforts to bring it under control.
During the night the flames spread to the villages of Nir Ezion and Ein Hod, burning houses, and forcing police and firefighters to rescue residents who had not already fled.
However, firefighters managed to prevent the flames from reaching the Haifa suburb of Deniya, which lies on the south-eastern outskirts of the city, even though at one stage it was only one kilometre from the quarter’s outlying streets.
The inferno also reached a hotel, and a wildlife reserve. Nir Etzion.
Spain, Egypt, Jordan, Croatia, Romania, Italy, Azerbaijan, Britain and the US are expected to send also aircraft, fire-retardant chemicals and other equipments. The Palestinian Authority said it had sent fire trucks.
Two other fires near the town of Ma’alot, about 40 kilometres north-east of the Carmel fire, and near the northern village of Basmat Tab’un erupted Saturday. The first was brought under control and in both cases police suspect arson.