Fires across Israel come under control; thousands evacuated – Haaretz

Josh Breiner, Aaron Rabinowitz, Nir Hasson, Almog Ben Zikri, Yotam Berger, Zafrir Rinat, Noa Landau | May 23, 2019

Some 3,500 people have been evacuated from their homes throughout central Israel on Thursday due to fires that started as a result of a heavy heat wave and were later brought under control.

Emergency forces said that even after firefighter teams put out all major fires, some central communities will remain inaccessible for 24 hours, after which residents will gradually return to their homes.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the National Security Council, the Foreign Ministry and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to act to ensure international aerial assistance in putting out the flames.

Fire and Rescue service teams have estimated that the vast part of the fires were a result of negligence by people celebrating the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer on Wednesday night, who hadn’t completely put out the traditional bonfires.

At least 16 homes caught fire in Kibbutz Harel and Mevo Modi’im, both north-west of Jerusalem, and their residents were evacuated.

The police also announced the full evacuation of Moshav Tarum, near the city Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. Emergency forces have been ordered to prepare to evacuate thousands more.

Meanwhile, a 70-year-old man died of heat stroke in the central city of Or Yehuda.

A baby and his two siblings were rescued from an apartment that caught fire in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit and were taken to hospital after sustaining injuries as a result of smoke inhalation. At least 11 people were injured across the country due to smoke inhalation.

The fire in Mevo Modi’in spread toward the Mitkan Adam military base and Moshav Shilat, where teams were fighting to subdue the flames.

In Beit Shemesh, firefighters were called to contain four different fires. Authorities have also used aircraft to drop water onto the flames from above.

In Jerusalem, a forest near the Uzi Narkiss Bridge caught on fire and roads leading to the city were blocked due to heavy smoke.

Furthermore, a fire broke out in Ben Shemen Forest, prompting authorities to close Route 443 in both directions.

A fire in the West Bank settlement of Beit Haggai was put out, and about 30 families that had been evacuated were allowed to return to their homes. Residents were also evacuated from Moshav Tifrach, a religious southern community, as weeds burned. In Moshav Yachini, a fire broke out in wheat fields.

Fires also started in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council in southern Israel, near the Gaza border and were later put out. Additionally, investigators determined that incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip caused two fires in the Eshkol Regional Council.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan consulted with senior officials with Israel’s police, Fire and Rescue Services and other emergency forces to assess the firefighting efforts across the country. He instructed to prepare for international aerial assistance should the fires continue to spread.

Erdan also stressed that lifesaving precedes the saving of property, and instructed firefighting forces to act accordingly, adding that a state of emergency might be declared.

The heat wave comes during the holiday of Lag B’Omer, throughout which usually hold bonfires that affect the dispersal of pollution. Pollution concentrations are up 11 times normal rates.

The heat wave is expected to last on Friday, and temperatures are even expected to rise. A significant relief in the heat is expected on Saturday, when temperatures are slated to drop by 10 to 13 degrees.

In Tel Aviv temperatures reached up to 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit), while 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) were measured in the northern city of Haifa and in the southern city of Ashkelon temperatures rose up to 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 Fahrenheit).
Firefighters fear worst not yet over as temperatures continue to rise – YNET

As Friday dawned, firefighters surveyed the damage caused by massive wildfires that threatened Kibbutz Harel and almost wiped out Mevo Modi’im, in addition to many other blazes; unseasonably high temperatures reaching 48C maintain fear that more yet to come
Yishai Porat, Inbar Tvizer|Published: 05.24.19

The massive blaze that threatened Kibbutz Harel on Thursday was likely caused by a falling electric cable in a nearby town; six homes were damaged there. In Mevo Modi’im, 40 of the town’s 50 homes were damaged and thousands of residents from those two regions spent the night at hospitality centers. Emergency services battled multiple wildfires throughout the country on Thursday.

Residents describe the hard feeling of having to flee for their lives as they watched the fire engulf the woods around their homes, not knowing if they would have where to return to when it was over.

Firefighter spokesman Udi Gal said Friday morning that the advance of the fires has been stopped and the main focus at the moment is in the area of Tarom, just north of Beit Shemesh in the Judean hills. The conflagration at Harel was mostly under control, he said.

However, because the weather remains quite dry and the temperature is expected to rise even further Friday, after two days of unseasonably high temperatures, firefighting officials are warning the public to refrain from lighting fires outdoors and to heed instructions from emergency services.

On Thursday, Israel reached out to countries including Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Croatia for assistance in dealing with the wildfires. Due to recent tensions between the two countries, help was not requested from Turkey.

Israelis sizzled in sweltering heat, as the weather reached scorching temperatures across the country. By Thursday afternoon, Tel Aviv and the northern city of Haifa both saw some 40 degrees celsius. In the southern city of Be’er Sheva, temperatures rose to 44 degrees, while the Dead Sea region experienced 48 degrees.

Firefighting brigades mobilized all available units and are using planes and dozens of fire trucks to try to stamp out the flames still burning in several locations.

Firefighting services said that some of the fires might have started as a result of Lag B’Omer bonfires not being extinguished properly overnight.,7340,L-5514607,00.html