The body of the missing fireman found Friday, Dec. 3, raised the number of dead from the Carmel fire to 42. After battling dry, high winds through the night, firefighters closed the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway to traffic early Friday, Dec. 3, as the huge fire which enveloped the northern reaches of Mt. Carmel Thursday continued to blaze out of control and spread amid winds changing direction ever hour.
New sites attacked by the fire are Kiryat Tivon and Shfar Am southeast of Haifa. Haifa's Danya neighborhood is threatened anew. More communities stand by for evacuation at Hof Hacarmel near the sea after the first 17,000 escaped their homes and were housed in provisional shelters. Numerous invitations to host them pour in from across the country.
Northern sections of Highway 4 remain closed to traffic; Highway 2 is closed from Zichron Yaacov to Haifa notwithstanding attempts supported by Greek airplanes to douse the spreading flames, burning ash and smoke.They are the main arteries to northern Israel and have never been closed – even during the 2006 war with Hizballah.
The first crop-sprayer planes used by the Israeli fire brigade went up with first light, quickly joined by the first of some 20 planes from a dozen countries across the world carrying firefighters and fresh stocks of extinguisher materials in response to Israel's appeal for aid for the worst fire disaster in its experience.
The first planes landed Friday morning with specialist manpower from Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria. Turkey has offered two planes. New York has pledged a planeload of materials for extinguishing fires. President Barack Obama promised aid and sent condolences for the deaths of Prison Services trainees – whose number has risen to 41 – who lost their lives on their way to rescue Damon Prison inmates in the path of the fire. Haifa police commander Ahuva Tomer remains in critical condition. The animals were evacuated from the open zoo at the Carmel nature reserve but many species of fauna have been destroyed along with rare vegetation.
The Israeli cabinet held a brief emergency session Friday. The prime minister told the ministers to focus on what needs to be done in terms of getting the fire under control – a process estimated to last a week or more given inadequate fire-fighting personnel, equipment and extinguisher stocks, and caring for the refugees. For now, all available manpower of 360 firefighters including army reservists and 106 fire engines are working flat out to battle the flames. Reinforcements are needed.
debkafile reported Thursday night:
As fires raged out of control on Mt. Carmel, fire engines raced to the first Haifa streets to be evacuated in Danya Suburb, Thursday night, Dec. 2, raising to 15,000 the number of people forced out of their homes to safety – among them Tirat Hacarmel, its military facility and Haifa University.
Most of the 40 dead victims have been identified as cadets of the Prison Service warders' course, summoned to help evacuate 500 Damon Prison inmates before it succumbed to the flames. Their bus was trapped as the fire changed direction and caught them on an open road.
Twenty firefighting planes are due to arrive in response to an appeal for aid from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. They come from the United States, Britain, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, France, Russia, Jordan and Egypt. They are carrying 60 tons of fire-fighting materials to replenish Israeli fire service's depleted stock. Extinguishing the fire could take between a week and ten days. The focal centers of the raging fire are spaced roughly one to one-and-a-half kilometers apart, confirming the suspicion of arson.
After the first flames shot up at around 11.00 a,m., firefighters began evacuating Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, Ain Hood, Daliat Hacarmel, Isfiya, Military Prison 6 and Kibbutz Bet Oren. The Kibbutz later burnt to the ground. IDF emergency units providing water tankers and the Air Force ferrying fire engines quickly joined the teams fighting the blaze, as reinforcements and equipment poured in from stations across the country. As night fell, the troops joined the evacuation teams spread out as far north as Haifa's outskirts. The helicopters were grounded by the dark.
The flames have consumed 30,000 of dunams of woodland and brush across the scenic mountain, a favorite beauty spot for trippers, picnickers and tourists. The conflagration spread fast, carried by strong eastern winds and fueled by the unseasonal drought which has left the entire region dry and parched.
Netanyahu visited the emergency center set up by the fire brigade, police, city leaders, homeland security and the IDF to fight the worst fire Israel has ever experienced and organize mass evacuations to safety. On hand too were Chief of staff Gaby Ashjkenazi, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonivitch and Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen.
First Carmel fire victims identified:
Topaz Even-Hen Klein, 28, married, Rehovot.
Maor Ganon, 27, married with child, Gan Yavne.
Yakir Swisa, 26, Dimona resident.
Kfir Ohana, 30, married with child, Ofakim.
Siom Tzagi, 31, married with 3 children, Netivot.
Hagai Jorno, 28, married with child, Kiryat Gat.
Oshrat Pinto, 26, Safed
Biber Shadi, 35, married with child, Kfar Jat.
Tapash Adel, 33, from Bet Jan.
Eran Wiesel, 31, from Kiryat Bialik.
Haggai Pankir, 31, from Yeruham.
Tania Lansky, 23, from Ashkelon.
Ayala Yifrah, 23, from Eilat.
Cyril Darman, 28, from Afula.