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Deadliest fire in Israel’s history leaves 40 dead. Netanyahu describes fire as a “catastrophe the likes of which we have never known”; appeals to Russia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus for help; declares national day of mourning for victims


Northern Israel was in a state of emergency on Thursday night as the deadliest fire in Israel’s history, in the Carmel Forest near Haifa, brought life to a halt in communities near the blaze. As the blazing fire, which started running wild on Thursday (Dec. 2) afternoon, continued spreading in the Carmel Forest near Haifa (northern Israel) annihilating over 750 acres, a bus carrying as many as 50 passengers overturned en route between kibbutz Beit Oren and Damon Prison, allegedly after the driver lost control of the vehicle because of the fire and surrounding smoke. 40 people have been killed and ten were injured. There are reports that Carmel Hospital may have to be evacuated.

The burned down bus which was en route between kibbutz Beit Oren and Damon Prison

The IDF allocated all of its resources on Thursday to assist the Fire and Rescue Service in battling the blaze.  The IDF Home Front Command had established a command post near the scene of the blaze and was coordinating relief efforts together with the Northern Police District. The IDF sent the Northern District Police Commander, IAF helicopters, hundreds of soldiers from local education bases, tens of medical crews including medics and doctors as well as medical supplies and two army battalions to help put out the fire and carry tanks of water.

There are only 1500 firefighters in Israel and the nation has run out of flame retardant chemicals. Responding to the Prime Minister’s appeal for assistance, Bulgaria has reportedly sent 50 firefighters to assist, and Spain has sent 4 planes.

We’ll keep you up to date as the story unfolds. Also, The Muqata is liveblogging on the crisis.   Israel Matzav is also providing updates.

For Israelis wanting to help:

National Hotline to help families displaced by the fire:

02 652 22 22


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21 replies »

  1. Condolences to the families of the victims and refuah shlemah to the injured.

    We mourn the trees and the wild life, the homes that were destroyed and the crops that were burned.

    We hope that the fire is brought under control as speedily as possible

  2. Margie, I second all of that and would like to add that a Tweet reports that 12 countries have sent assistance.

    Muqata is live-blogging and Yeshiva World earlier said it would update.

  3. @pretzelberg

    This is the reason why –

    For Israelis wanting to help:
    National Hotline to help families displaced by the fire:

    02 652 22 22

    Would you rather we wouldn’t post such information?

  4. @ Hawkeye

    Of course such information is wirth publishing.
    But you think people come here for such information?

    I was under the understanding that this website is all about monitoring anti-Semitism and anti-Israel reporting at the Guardian.

  5. A significant number of our readers are Israeli. They may not come here specifically for this information but if they happenstance on it, then we’ve done our bit to help.

    Do you similarly object to a posting wishing our readers Happy Chanukah, Happy Easter or the like because thats similarly got nowt to do with antisemitism?

  6. When there’s some real news from israel, guess who does not cover it? Harriet Sherwood.

    They need to get Haroon Siddique to cover it from London. At least they didn’t put it in the “Worldnews/Gaza section.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/02/forest-fire-kills-40-israel

    Forest fire kills 40 in Israel

    Many of the dead were killed when bus evacuating prison guards from blaze in Carmel mountains went up in flames, say rescuers

    * Haroon Siddique
    * guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 December 2010 16.31 GMT
    * Article history

  7. Ignore him,I’m glad that you posted this information here,any information from anywhere about this disaster is welcome.

  8. Don’t get me wrong. I wish that all resources available from those countries offering help come to the assistance of those affected.

  9. What the Guardian report doesn’t make clear is that the people who were tragically killed in the bus fire that resulted when it was trapped by a falling burning tree were prison guard cadets going out to rescue prisoners, including many Palestinian prisoners, in a jail threatened by the fire. The Haifa police chief, Ahuva Tomer, following the stricken coach in a car, was critically injured in the incident and is fighting for her life.

  10. Although the initial reports did say the bus overturned, you can see from the photo that it remained upright. The latest I heard was that it crashed into a tree.

    The death toll has risen to 41. There are some critically injured, so that number could rise further 😦

    One of the few bright spots is the help that other countries are sending. Four planes from Greece have already arrived.

  11. I have just contacted Magen David Adom in London. They are about to put up an information page which asks for donations too. MDA did wonderful work in Haiti, and for some time after the other aid agencies left.

    Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to donate in sterling….. :~))

  12. Pretz,

    As some posters alerted you, the Guardian coverage was poor to say the least.

    This is a serious disaster in Israeli scale, and is the worst bush fire in its history.

    I guess the fact it began next to a Druze village through an illegal dumping site, or that the prison guards who died in the coach burnt alive while on route to evacuate prisioners many of whom object the state full stop, might be a clue why the Guardian chooses to shy away from this story.

    Harriet Sherwood surely knows about this as it has been going since yesterday afternoon, and still does.

    Why hasn’t she made her way to Haifa?
    Less than 2 hours journey should take her there.

    Let me guess, the Israelis and Arabs actualy get along in this city.

    No story there than for Guardian readers.

  13. Judy, thanks for the explanation re: bus. (It appears the photos in your link have changed because I don’t see the bus.)

  14. @ ItsikDeWembley

    Yes. As Sherwood appears to be reporting regularly on Israel news, you’d think she could make the relatively short trip up north for this massively important story.
    Actually a Google News search for her I just ran came up with one hit:
    http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1-/7493-getting-the-files-on-israels-policy-for-gaza.html
    So it seems she’s not been very busy.
    On the other hand, see the e-mail from her quoted in the piece:

    I have to say that from previous trips there is no evidence of a shortage of food in Gaza although there is clearly an issue about affordability for some sections of the population

    Strange how certain CiF posters insist that Israel is “starving” the people in Gaza.

  15. The latest news:
    – Cause of the fire is most likely carelessness; suspected is a family from Usfiya that had a picnic in the area and were grilling food and smoking nargilas. The family denies it, but police are pretty sure that’s where the fire started.
    – 39 of the 41 bodies that were recovered have now been identified.
    – There are 9 injured; the ones from the first day of the fire are horribly burned, and most of them are in serious to critical condition. The ones after that have smoke inhalation, and are mostly considered to be “lightly” injured. They are all police or fire fighters.
    – The international community has been marvellous, and are continuing to send fire-fighting aircraft and fire-retardant material.
    – Israeli citizens have (mostly*) been marvellous; all over the country there are offers of accommodation for the evacuated and other offers of help.
    *except for the idiots who want to go sightseeing; people who would otherwise be fighting the fires have to be on duty at the highways to prevent them from getting close.
    – The current estimation is that it will be a week before the fire is fully extinguished. The weather continues hot and rather windy.
    – There are smaller fires all around the country, many (sadly) due to deliberate arson. Naturally the firefighting resources are stretched to the max (and past the max), so this is even more evil than it would otherwise be.