Israel wildfires scorch more land, 60,000 evacuated in Haifa

Posted at 2:18 PM, Nov 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-24 14:18:47-05

Wildfires raged across Israel for a third consecutive day as authorities ordered the evacuation of 60,000 people in the northern city of Haifa.

The fires, which began in Zichron Ya’akov Tuesday, also affected Modi’in in central Israel.

A police spokesman told CNN that forces and firefighters are focusing their efforts on dealing with a number of fires in Haifa as 11 of the city’s neighborhoods are being evacuated.

Two prisons at Carmel and Damon were also evacuated, with 600 prisoners and 150 prison officers moved by police.

According to Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance service, 35 people have been treated for light smoke inhalation across the country since the fires broke out earlier this week.

It says MDA remains on its highest alert level, with all vehicles and teams across the country on call.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav told reporters that the scale of the fire was “unprecedented in Haifa” and that the city had set up six centers to welcome those evacuated.

The Israel Defense Forces’ Homefront Command has deployed two search-and-rescue battalions to assist civilian efforts.

A spokesman for the IDF confirmed that reservists have been called to assist police and fire services with resources and manpower.

According to Ran Sheluf, head of the investigation unit of the Israel fire and rescue services, there have been more than 1,500 fires reported over the past week.

“This is twice the usual number,” he said. “The cause of the fires is either negligence or being started deliberately.”

To help battle the blazes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested assistance from world leaders. Many have offered to help, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia will send two giant Beriev be-200 firefighting aircraft to assist with the operation after the two leaders spoke on the telephone.

Turkey, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Cyprus are also assisting Israeli authorities.

The fires are the worst to hit Israel since 2010, when more than 40 people died.