Obama: That's what friends do for each other

US president offers condolences to families of victims of uncontrolled fire raging in North; Hague: British gov't saddened by Carmel forest fire.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
December 3, 2010 21:07
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

311_Obama says talk to the hand. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

US President Barack Obama on Thursday offered his condolences to families of the victims of the uncontrolled fires that were raging throughout the north of the country.

"As rescuers and firefighters continue in their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster," Obama said at a reception celebrating the second night of Hanukka. "A short while ago, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jim Cunningham, issued a disaster declaration, which has launched an effort across the US government to identify the firefighting assistance we have available and provide it to Israel as quickly as possible. Of course, that's what friends do for each other."

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Obama continued, "Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Israel who is affected by this tragedy and the family and loved ones of those in harm’s way."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday offered her "sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in the fires in northern Israel."

A 747 loaded with the fire retardant chemical needed to stop the raging Carmel forest fires left the United States for Israel Thursday night, thanks to New York City Mayor Bloomberg, Israeli Acting Consul General Ido Aharoni, members of the FDNY and Tom Harbour, the Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the US Forestry Service.

Bloomberg called Israel’s Acting Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni Thursday afternoon to convey New York City's strong support for Israel Thursday afternoon, Bloomberg's spokesperson Stu Loeser said.



Bloomberg asked if New York could help Israel with its fires. Bloomberg mentioned in the call that  FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano had had a meeting scheduled for Friday with Israel's Deputy Minister of Defense, Matan Vilnai and two aides. Vilnai is in charge of Homeland Defense including natural disasters and terrorist/hostile military events against the civilian population.  However, the Friday meeting had been cancelled due to Vilnai's return to Israel.

Aharoni thanked Bloomberg and requested Fire Trol 931, a flame retardant Israel needs to combat the fires. At Bloomberg's request, Deputy Fire Commissioner Francis X. Gribbon immediately called the Acting Counsel General back, ascertained that the fire retardant Israel needs is not one that the FDNY uses in New York, and had the FDNY reach out to the United States Forestry Service, which does use Fire Trol 931 to fight forest fires.

After a conference call between Harbour and Aharoni late Thursday afternoon, Harbour told FDNY Deputy Commissioner Gribbon that the plane loaded with Fire Trol 931 will leave for Israel tonight.

Egypt has also offered to assist in firefighting efforts by supplying fire extinguishing chemicals, according to the IDF Spokesperson. 

"The British Government has been saddened by the Carmel Forest fire in northern Israel which has claimed so many lives," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday, according to a statement released.

Hague said "on behalf of the whole Government I send my condolences to those who have lost family members. Our thoughts are with the thousands who have had to leave their homes due to the blaze."

"This tragedy is all the more sad as it comes as the Jewish community around the world celebrates Hanukka, a time of hope and joy," the British foreign secretary said.


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