The worst forest fire in Israel’s history on Thursday devastated one of the country’s few forested areas, killing at least 36 guards on their way to rescue inmates at a prison in the fire zone, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands. The fire ripped through the Carmel forest in Israel’s Galilee, reaching the coastal city of Haifa, jumping from place to place in the forest left tinder-dry by a lack of rain and unseasonably hot weather. Israel appealed for international assistance, a measure of the severity of the disaster, and Turkey put aside recent tensions to pledge aid.
This is a horrific disaster. Praying persons need to.
“This is a disaster of unprecedented proportions,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. The fire was still burning out of control as midnight approached. Most of the dead were Prison Service guards racing through the fire toward a prison to evacuate the inmates, most of them Palestinians. A tree fell across the road, blocking their bus. Some guards were burned alive inside, while others died as they tried to flee. Fourteen bodies were found near the charred skeleton of the bus 10 hours after the fire started. Fire officials said the blaze torched some 1,600 acres (650 hectares). A university, three prisons and a hospital were evacuated and at least one village was destroyed. Police said 12,000 people were evacuated from their homes.