Judith Levy at Ricochet reports on the devastating fire raging through the Carmel Forest in Northern Israel, the worst in the country’s history:
The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry of late — we just had the hottest November in sixty years, winter shows no sign of approaching, and my kids are still in T-shirts and shorts. Yesterday (Thursday), sometime around midday, a fire broke out, apparently in an illegal landfill near the Druse village of Usifiya. Gusty winds and the extreme dryness combined to cause the fire to build and spread at shocking speed. It swept towards Haifa, prompting mass evacuations that as of this moment have affected about 17,000 people. . . .
The savagery and power of the fire has been and continues to be terrifying, with quickly moving flames leaping up to forty meters in the air. Residents across the north are being advised to keep their windows closed to keep the smoke out. Beit Oren, a kibbutz in the Carmel hills, has been devastated and possibly destroyed (its population was evacuated before the wildfire reached its buildings). The University of Haifa was evacuated. At least 5,000 acres of pine trees in the gorgeous Carmel Forest are now ashes or still aflame. Routes Two and Four to the affected area have been closed, effectively cutting the region off from the rest of the country. Buses are on standby for further evacuations.
There has also been loss of life. A bus carrying guards to help evacuate a prison was blocked by a fallen tree and then engulfed by fire. 36 people aboard were killed, as well as six rescuers.
As with most tragedies of this sort, the response has produced some collateral good news. When the fire overwhelmed Israel’s capacity to fight it, other countries began to pitch in. Turkey was among them. It offered to send two fire-fighting aircraft. Israel acepted, and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke by phone with Turkish President Erdogan for the first time since Netanyahu took office.
Help has also come so far from Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, France, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Britain, Egypt, Jordan, Romania, and Russia. President Obama has said that U.S. assistance is on the way. And Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, has sent his condolences to the Israeli people on behalf of the Palestinians.
The challenges posed by this fire will continue after the fire is finally extinguished. Fighting the fire is expected to leave Israel desperately short of water, a resource that is never abundant there.
JOHN adds: From the limited amount of time I have spent in Israel, I would not have thought there was enough forest to sustain a forest fire. Obviously I was mistaken. This photo, taken from space by a satellite, was in the Washington Post yesterday. On the right of the picture are Lake Kenneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the Jordan River: