An Israeli firefighter plane helps extinguish a fire in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa on November 24, 2016.
(photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)
In the aftermath of the late November blazes that raged throughout the country, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has decided to allocate NIS 75 million toward the country’s fire relief funds.
Of the total, about NIS 50m. is slated to go toward property tax compensations, while about NIS 25m. is expected to boost firefighting budgets, the ministry said.
The fires, which occurred from November 22 through November 29, destroyed some 4,100 hectares of land, resulting in injuries to human, animal and plant life and causing extensive infrastructural damage.
“Out of a desire to complete the assistance of those harmed by and involved in the fire events as quickly as possible, the Finance Ministry is submitting the proposal for immediate approval by the [Knesset] Finance Committee,” the ministry statement said.
Relying on initial damage estimates conducted by property tax assessors, the Finance Ministry decided to settle on the NIS 50m. amount for property tax compensation, the statement explained.
The ministry significantly raised the allocation, which will be distributed by the Tax Authority’s Property Tax Fund, from an initial NIS 21m. Legally, the state must compensate citizens for direct and indirect property damages resulting from hostile acts, war or terrorism, regardless of private insurance.
While this increase in funds is aimed at providing immediate compensation to fire victims, the ministry stressed that additional funds will be paid in accordance with the future findings of property tax assessors.
On top of the NIS 50m. allocated for property tax compensation, the Finance Ministry decided to budget NIS 25m. to cover the costs of firefighters’ salaries, the ministry said.
All in all, in addition to the 4,100 hectares of land burned, some 133 people were injured and 75,000 were evacuated during the fire events, according to data from Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund. About 2,500 firefighters worked to fight the blazes alongside 480 firefighting airplane sorties, employing 1.5 million tons of fire inhibitors, the data said.
Michael Zeff contributed to this report.