Residents of the northern city of Tirat Carmel stood shocked before a wall of flames Friday, after some 5,000 of their neighbors had already been evacuated from their homes. Firefighters said Friday morning that they had succeeded in blocking the fire in the town before it did any damage.
The first to respond to Israel's cry for help was Greece, and a number of the country's planes landed at the Ramat David base overnight and early in the morning. The firefighters aboard will be briefed by Air Force chief Ido Nehushtan on extinguishing efforts, which will concentrate on drawing water from the sea and pouring it over the flames. A Bulgarian mission, which includes a plane carrying a hundred firefighters led by the country's deputy foreign minister, is also at ready.
Firefighters are still trying to fight the massive forest blaze that overtook northern Israel Thursday evening and claimed the lives of some 41 people, with the Jewish National Fund declaring that nearly 5,000 acres had already gone up in flame. KKL-JNF Northern Region Director Omri Bone estimates that 1.5 million trees burnt in the fire.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority announced that it would not be evacuating the animals from the nature reserves even if the fire reaches those areas.
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Authorities in Haifa say they do not believe Israel can overcome the fire on its own, and it appears the state is counting on outside help. "Six planes, each carrying six cubic meters of extinguishant, could put an end to this crazy fire," Haifa Firefighters said.
Firefighters believe they may be able to get the blaze under control by the afternoon. Overnight more than 15,000 people were evacuated from their homes, with flames reaching the entrance to the Druze village of Isfiya as well as an IDF prison evacuated earlier. Firefighting teams were battling the blaze at both sites. The fire also reached the northern town of Tirat Carmel.
In Haifa, the neighborhood of Denia emptied out, with police ordering some 2,500 people to go stay in shelters elsewhere in the city.
At least 40 Prison Service officer course cadets were killed in the fire earlier Thursday after their bus burned down en route to an evacuation mission in Damon Prison. Several other people were injured in the blaze, including Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer, who was gravely hurt. She is currently hospitalized with burns covering her body.
Some of the victims' names have been released for publication:
• Oshrat Pinto, 26, Safed
• Ronen Peretz, 34, Ashkelon
• Hagai Jurno, 28, Kiryat Gat
• Roi Biton, 28, Kiryat Gat
• Yakir Suissa, 25, Dimona
• Inbal Amoyal, 26, Dimona
• Siom Tsagai, 31, Netivot
• Kfir Ohana, 30, Ofakim
• Wasim Abu-Rish, 28, Yirka
• Nisher Tapash Adal, 33, Beit Jan
• Misher Vizel Eran, 31, Kiryat Bialik
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav announced that the city had been well-prepared for the evacuation of neighborhoods. "Schools were prepared for the emergency, in order to absorb the evacuees, and we have checked vacancies in many hotels," he said. Haifa University has been shut down until further notice.
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