Deadliest forest fire in Israel's history reaches Haifa

Reuters/Nir Elias

A brushfire has killed at least 41 people, most of them prison guards, in the deadliest blaze in Israel’s 62-year history. The fire has spread to the southern area of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, and has caused the evacuation of 13,000 people.


Efforts to extinguish the conflagration have been thwarted by a national shortage of airborne fire retardant, according to police, as the aftermath of the nation’s hottest summer on record has sparked a rash of forest fires.

Extremely strong winds, which have abruptly shifted direction, have permitted the fire to consume some 1.5 million trees.

Visiting the scene, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the tragedy as an "unprecedented disaster".

"The necessary means are not currently in the field but they are on the way here," said Netanyahu, adding that it would take time to control the inferno.

All of Israel’s 1,500 firefighters have been called to the scene, with the army saying that several hundred soldiers have been sent to assist rescue efforts.

Netanyahu’s appeal for international assistance has been met with an outpouring of support, including firefighting aircraft from four countries, 90 firefighters from Bulgaria and many other offers of help.

Most of the victims were on a bus which was en route to evacuate prisoners, said a spokesperson for Israel’s ambulance service.

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