D I S A S T E R – 40 dead – near Haifa
“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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hurried to the scene of the fire on Thursday evening in order to get updates regarding efforts to control the fire.
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.
Head of the Haifa Police Department, Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer was critically injured as a result of the huge brushfire in the Carmel region.
Tomer was driving behind the prison guards’ bus which got burned in the flames. Two more police officers were declared missing on Thursday.
A mass evacuation began Thursday evening as firefighters were still battling the flames. Residents of the western neighborhoods of Tirat Hacarmel were evacuated from their homes.
Police forces were also preparing to evacuate prisoners from Prison 6 and Carmel Prison in northern Israel, and students in Haifa University who reside in the dormitories were evacuated to a nearby high school.
Some 200 patients from the Tirat Hacarmel psychiatric hospital were also evacuated to other hospitals in northern cities.
Residents of Kibbutz Beit Oren were already evacuated from their homes on Thursday afternoon, as the entire Kibbutz went up in flames. The Kibbutz was home to 400 residents who earned a living mostly off agriculture.
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.
Haifa mayor Yonah Yahav said early Thursday that “the flames spread on a scale we’ve never seen.” Magen David Adom Director General Eli Bin defined the fire as “the worst disaster in Israel’s history.”