You’ve probably heard about the huge wildfire presently burning out of control in northern Israel. The Muqata blog has been providing continuous updates here.
At least 42 people [updated 3 Dec] are dead, more than 15,000 evacuated and damage in the millions. This is the worst fire in Israel’s history and one of its worst natural disasters. In a particularly horrible incident, a bus carrying prison service officers on their way to assist in the evacuation of the Damon prison was trapped by the flames, and 40 of them burned to death.
Media have been quiet about the cause. There are unconfirmed reports that the fire started simultaneously in several locations. I don’t have to tell you what this means, if true.
The UK, Greece, France, Cyprus, Croatia, Azerbaijan, even Turkey are among countries sending planes, chemicals and equipment to fight the fire.
According to the NY Times, Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad “expressed his condolences to the people of Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people.” There are also reports of less friendly expressions from some Arabs — again, unconfirmed.
Firefighters are presently trying to contain the fire and evacuate those in its path. Efforts to put it out won’t begin until daylight. We’ll know more in a few hours.
Update [3 Dec 0802 PST]: Two suspects have been arrested trying to start additional fires with Molotov cocktails. There is also some evidence of arson at the sources of the three major blazes. The Muqata’s live account is here.
Meanwhile, here is video of a Turkish fire-fighting aircraft landing in Israel. Remarkable, given the recent political climate. Jordan has also sent equipment, and Russia and Bulgaria as well.