40 prison guards dead after bus engulfed in fire

40 prison guards are killed after being trapped in bus; Haifa police chief critically injured; fire-fighting crews, planes attempt to control fire in North amidst heavy winds.

December 2, 2010 18:03
2 minute read.
Fire rages in the Carmel, Thursday

Carmel fire 311. (photo credit: Israel Police)


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As fires raged in the Carmel mountains on Thursday, 40 prison wardens en route to the Damon Prison burned to death in a bus caught up in the blaze .

The wardens were meant to assist in evacuating some 500 prisoners from the facility, situated near Kibbutz Beit Oren. Their vehicle was engulfed in fast moving flames which had spread to the narrow mountain road linking Atlit to Kibbutz Bet Oren.

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A firefighter spokesman said the blaze had traveled 1500 meters in less than three minutes, adding, "the bus had no chance. They tried to escape but were burned alive. It was a horrific scene."

The spokesman added that the fire was very far from the road on which the bus was traveling when it first set off towards the prison, but had spread far faster than expected.

The IDF Home Front Command established a command center near the scene of the blaze and was coordinating relief efforts together with the Northern District Police.

Forces were assisting in evacuating neighborhoods in Tirat Hacarmel after the fire began to surround the eastern part of the city. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were also diverted to the scene of the fire to assist fire fighters in tracking its direction.

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Kibbutz Bet Oren was reported to have been largely destroyed by the flames, after it was evacuated.

The head of the Haifa Police, Dep.-Cmdr. Ahuva Tomer, was critically injured in the fire and she was evacuated to the Rambam Medical Center and was being treated for severe burns.

Fire and Rescue Commissioner Shimon Romach added that the firefighting operation would be limited to ground forces after sunset, since fire planes cannot be used at night. "I don't think we will get control of this tonight," he added.

Thousands of dunams have gone up in flames in the Carmel forest between Haifa University and Ussafiya, and it remains unclear how the incident will end at this stage.

Police described the fire as a "major disaster. Many of the dead are from the security forces, and include civilians. The fire is continuing to spread and is endangering many areas."

Police have asked the public to stay clear of the whole area.

Traffic Police sealed off Route 4 between Beit Oren and Haifa over fears that fires could spread to the Atlit-Tirat Hacarmel area. Police have instructed drivers to use Routes 2 or 6 instead and to stay away from the area.

The area in question contains heavy brush that burns easily, according to firefighters. This fact coupled with strong winds has prompted the evacuations and the presence of multiple fire crews brought in to help with the blaze from various districts in the country.

Additional number for information for affected families: 08 977-5717

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