Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thousands evacuated as fires burn across Israel: Russia, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey sent firefighting planes

About 60,000 people were evacuated from Haifa, Israel, as fires, some deliberately set, raged across the country, the national police chief said Thursday.

Wildfires, fanned by strong winds and dry conditions, are devouring forests, and fires in at least five parts of Haifa, a port city of about 300,000 consumed homes and businesses. Other fires, caused by arson or negligence, have also broken out, officials said.

By late Thursday over 100 Haifa residents and firefighters were treated for injuries, mostly smoke inhalation. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported.

Roni Alsheich, national police chief, said some fires were set by arsonists, "presumably with nationalist intentions," adding, "There are some cases of arson and lots of cases that are not arson." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the fires could be attributed to "natural and unnatural causes," and Gilad Erdan, the country's public security minister, told Army Radio he estimated that half the fires burning across Israel were cases of arson.

"The fire is not under control," Haifa's police chief noted Thursday. "Residents should quickly evacuate." A large apartment tower in Haifa's Romena neighborhood was consumed by the fire.

  • Russia, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey sent firefighting planes and other equipment to help with the emergency, and the Israeli Army's Home Front Command was mobilized to deal with the fires and rescues.

Flames are also affecting the West Bank, where 300 students were evacuated from a school in Talmon, and several buildings and cars were damaged by fire in the city of Ramallah.

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